PEOPLE | HER STORY

Return of Mercy hospital ship revives hope in Bicol

Josie 'Pines' Cervantes-Musa

Bicolanos are so lucky to be visited again by the largest hospital ship in the world, USNS MERCY now docked in the international port of Legaspi City (Albay Gulf) for a humanitarian mission under the 2016 Pacific Partnership Program.

The Mayon volcano, reported as the most perfect cone volcano in the world, was at her finest: it looked postcard-perfect as it welcomed the state-of-the-art hospital ship on the morning of the 27th of June.
 
The humanitarian medical mission is set to treat about 2,000 to 3,000 patients, to be performed by USS Mercy soldiers of the US Armed Forces from 27 June to 11 July.
 
Brig. General Claudio Yucot, commanding officer of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade (IB) mentioned in earlier reports that the US forces movement will be limited only to the humanitarian mission and visiting to remarkable tourists spots of Albay.
 
Over 1,000 US troops are now in Albay (Legaspi City) for the Pacific Partnership engagement to provide humanitarian assistance and to learn disaster management approach with their Filipino counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other disaster responders in the provincial government.
 
 
Being an Albayana myself and a former lecturer at Bicol University, I was so proud to know that it is back in the province as I was once involved as one of the volunteers when this ship did the same mission nearly 30 years ago. 
 
The commanding officer in March 1987 Legaspi City visit was US Navy Captain Peter F. Roberts, MC.  The mission was also to provide humanitarian support following super typhoon Sisang (international codename Nina).  This year, Albay is the recipient again of the US Armed Forces humanitarian team in partnership with the AFP upon the request of the Philippine government, as part of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
 
The Pacific Partnership 2016 included medical mission, engineering and disaster response. The US forces’ engineering brigade will construct a school building along with soldiers of AFP in the towns of Daraga and Camalig. The 2016 Pacific Partnership program is a multilateral, disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region which aims to bring partner nations together to prepare in a time of calm so they can effectively respond when a crisis or natural disaster takes place.
 
 
Now on its 11th year, the program will conduct stops in Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Palau, with partners from around the Pacific – including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
 
The United States Navy's hospital ship visit not only provide humanitarian assistance to impoverished families but they will also share their expertise in disaster management as part of the broader 2016 Pacific Partnership initiative. By doing so, they are bringing hope and happiness to all Bicolanos.
 
On behalf of the Bicolanos in Australia, being the BICOL INC. Representative of Albay province, my sincere THANKS to Albay provincial government headed by the unchallenged Governor of Albay,  Hon. Joey Sarte Salceda,  and the people behind the 2016 Pacific Partnership program.  I would like also to mentioned our friends in Albay, Mr. Wilson Sia, who provided us the information and photos.  Mabalos tabi na daculaon saimo. Daculang urgullo asin kaogmahan ini kan mga Bicolnon digdi sa Sydney!
 
Mabalos saindo gabos!
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