AFP prepares 33-man response team for special mission in quake-hit Turkey

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) mobilized a 33-man response team that will be deployed to assist in search and rescue (SAR) operations in Turkey following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck there on Monday, Feb. 6.

General Andres Centino, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), answers question from the media after he inspected the military response team that will be deployed to Turkey on Feb. 7, 2023. The response team will help in search and rescue operations after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey on Feb. 6. The team is scheduled to depart on Feb. 8. (Defense Press Corps pool)

General Andres Centino, AFP Chief of Staff, led the readiness inspection of the response team at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 7.

The team is composed of 21 Philippine Army (PA) personnel and 12 Philippine Air Force (PAF) servicemen. Some of the members of the rescue team were sent for relief mission in Leyte during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette last year.

“They are all trained in search and rescue operations. Marunong sila sa (They know how to operate in) collapsed structures search and rescue and they have the training and equipment to do this special task,” Centino emphasized.

The team is part of the 85-man contingency that was called by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to conduct search, rescue, and relief missions in Turkey. Other members of the contingency will come from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Health (DOH), and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Photo by Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN

The contingent is scheduled to depart on Wednesday, Feb. 8, according to Diego Agustin Mariano, head of OCD joint information center.

In a speech during the inspection, Centino reminded the soldiers to follow security protocols to ensure their safety, and to come back home after the mission. The death toll has already reached 3,400 in Turkey while 20,500 others were injured as aftershocks continued to rock the country, according to foreign media. In the nearby country of Syria, which is also affected by the powerful earthquake, more than 1,600 people have reportedly died and 3,600 others were hurt.

“I was just telling them ‘wag kakabahan kapag nasa labas ng bansa (don’t be nervous when you are out of the country) and also preparing them kasi malamig daw ang weather sa pupuntahan nila (the weather is cold where they are headed),” Centino said, noting that some of them are first time to go out of the country.

Appropriate clothing, adequate food supply, and SAR equipment were provided to the response team to enable them to perform their mission effectively.

The military chief said he also coordinated with the Philippines’ defense attache in Turkey to ensure the safety of the response team.

“Appropriate security arrangement will be done,” Centino said. "They are soldiers so they can secure themselves.”