ORMOC CITY, Leyte --
As this year’s iteration of Balikatan draws closer to completion, combined efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. armed forces, Australian Defence Force, and Japan Self-Defense Forces will be remembered by the citizens of Ormoc City for many years to come.
Four multi-purpose classrooms were built at Don Carlos and Margen elementary schools, which will be ready to use for this upcoming school year.
“Balikatan is aiding our community, with regard to education,” Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez said. “We have a shortage of classrooms in Ormoc [City] and the classrooms that were built will be very helpful to us.”
A top priority of Exercise Balikatan 33-2017 is focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
In November 2013, the Philippines suffered devastating loss in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Shortly thereafter, the locals realized the importance of disaster preparedness.
“Super Typhoon Yolanda was really a game changer,” Gomez said. “Most of the houses in Ormoc were destroyed. As a result, [Ormoc City residents] understood the importance of working with each other in building back the community.”
Disaster preparedness symposiums were held throughout Leyte that educated local communities about what supplies to prepare and how to properly evacuate should another natural disaster occur.
“Intellectually, Balikatan is helping our people with regards to health and disaster preparedness,” Gomez continued.
Gomez shares that something much deeper was accomplished in the hearts and minds of the residents of Ormoc City.
“I am very happy about the outcome of Balikatan,” Gomez said. “What’s important is what we bring to the community, and at the end of the day, the only feedback I get is that Balikatan is working for the community.”
Gomez recognizes that Balikatan is a good way to exchange ideas, techniques and culture.
“I am glad and really hoping that Balikatan will come back here in Ormoc [City] soon.”