The Philippines is frequently impacted by natural disasters. To better prepare a coordinated response to future emergencies, the Australian Embassy, in partnership with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), held a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) workshop onboard one of Australia’s largest ships, HMAS Canberra.
Civilian and military experts from the Philippines and Australia played out emergency situations in a tabletop exercise, designed to increase understanding of the Philippines’ disaster management systems, and its readiness to accept international response.
Leading the tabletop exercise was the Australian Embassy’s Development Counsellor and expert in humanitarian assistance, Mr. Thanh Le PSM. He led Australia’s response to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
“Activities like this allow the Australian Government to think through, ‘What support could Australia provide the Philippines in response to this kind of disaster? How much time would it take to launch an amphibious response? What resources would we need?’
“It also allows our partners in the Philippine government to consider how best to coordinate and receive Australia’s assistance.”
Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus “Gary” Domingo led the discussion for the Philippine side. He laid down the policies on calling for and accepting International Humanitarian Assistance in the Philippines while drawing on the lessons learned from Typhoon Yolanda.
The HADR experts worked through the scenario of a 7.2 earthquake, explored how the Philippine’s emergency response will kick in, and how Australia can support if needed.
Other members of the NDRRMC took part in the tabletop exercise, representing the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Office of Civil Defense, the Philippine National Police, the Department of Finance, Department of Health, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Information and Communications Technology.
Onboard HMAS Canberra, Captain Philippa Hay, Commander, Amphibious Task Force Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023 (IPE23), provided an overview of the HADR capabilities of the Australian Defence Force and assured the Philippines, “Australia stands ready to assist you.”
The unique HADR onboard workshop also allowed Philippine emergency planners to see Australia’s navy assets that can deliver massive relief and recovery operations following a major emergency. HMAS Canberra is an amphibious vessel that can carry thousands of personnel, four landing crafts, and up to 18 helicopters. It can deliver relief supplies and coordinate complex HADR operations from the sea.
Undersecretary Domingo said, “It’s a privilege for members of the NDRRMC to undertake a visit and tour of HMAS Canberra. It is reassuring to see first-hand the air and sea capabilities on board that can be available to the Philippines should we ever need it. It is a testament of an enduring friendship and spirit of bayanihan between Australia and the Philippines that we have already witnessed in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda ten years ago.”
Joining Captain Hay were Air Commodore Tony McCormack, Commander of IPE23, who led the response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami as Commander of the General Headquarters United Nations command; and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Glover, who alongside the ADF personnel on board, brought their experience from recent relief efforts in the region.
“We cannot stop a disaster from coming. But Australia can help mitigate the effect using our on-call HADR capability, including Defence assets like HMAS Canberra,” said Mr Le.
Over decades, the Australian Government has provided emergency assistance, as well as long-term development investment to build community resilience in support of Philippine priorities.
Since 2006, Australia has invested PHP 1.2 billion in various development programs to build community resilience on top of the PHP 4.4 billion in humanitarian response.
Currently, Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities against Disasters and Climate Change (SHIELD) Programme is Australia’s flagship resilience initiative in the Philippines. It aims to further strengthen local government capacities by working closely with provincial and municipal governments towards a safer and more resilient communities.
Mark Timbal, OCD External & Media Relations