MANILA, Philippines–”I hope that you will not lose your resolve. I hope that you will not lose heart. You are the ones at the frontlines. You know what is true.”
These were the words Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin uttered as he addressed soldiers on Friday at South Harbor, as newly commissioned BRP Ramon Alcaraz sailed into her first mission in typhoon-struck Leyte.
“Perhaps you may already heard a number of comments of our government’s response to typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’. There are some groups who are fostering negativity on purpose to discredit each action the government takes and to render meaningless the determination of soldiers, policemen and even volunteers who are quietly doing their part and working to help their countrymen,” Gazmin said.
The national government had been criticized in the immediate aftermath of Yolanda for slow relief efforts to hardly hit areas. The Philippine military was also criticized for being ill-equipped in disasters.
“But times like this there is no room for you to doubt what you have done because you know that your countrymen need you. You must not let them down,” Gazmin said.
“Since we have spoken of tragedies and disasters, perhaps this question is also timely, where are we in terms of our capacity to respond to unexpected events. I believe no one can deny that much progress has been made in this area, when before we only had one C-130 [cargo planes] now we have three and we have plans to procure two more,” Gazmin said.
The C-130s have been the workhorse of the Philippine Air Force, transporting thousands of evacuees out of typhoon-affected areas and delivering relief goods and medical assistance.
“We also have two bigger more modern ships–the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz– which we commissioned and christened today,” he added.
The BRP Alcaraz, a decommissioned Hamilton-class cutter from the United States, arrived in August. It took three months of dry-docking and repainting before it got its first assignment.
On Friday, the warship had been christened, commissioned and sent off at simple rites with Gazmin as guest of honor and keynote speaker. The Alcaraz family also attended the event.
The ship was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a World War II hero. Although ill-equipped, he was able to fight the Japanese.
After the ceremonies, the ship sailed for Leyte to do humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. It carried 200 tons of assorted relief goods and other equipment.