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NEWS | June 27, 2016

Pacific Partnership 2016 Arrives in Philippines

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Trevor Kohlrus, Pacific Partnership Public Affairs

LEGAZPI, Philippines (NNS) -- Pacific Partnership 2016 arrived in Legazpi, Philippines June 27 aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), marking the seventh year Pacific Partnership has visited the Philippines since 2006.

While in Legazpi, Pacific Partnership will work with civilian and military leadership to conduct a five-day humanitarian and disaster relief seminar, cooperative health engagements throughout the province, engineering construction and renovation projects at local schools, and community relations events such as band concerts led by the Pacific Fleet Band.

"This is my first time being an officer-in-charge for a country while on a humanitarian mission," said Lt. Rebecca Wolf, country officer-in-charge of the Philippines. "Serving on USNS Mercy is a unique experience for surface warfare officers, and having the opportunity to support Pacific Partnership 2016 as an OIC is unparalleled and rewarding. I'm very lucky I have such a great team to work with."

The humanitarian assistance and disaster relief workshop is co-hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Pacific Partnership 2016. Filipino civilian and military personnel will work with Pacific Partnership personnel to step through response procedures on disasters, such as a category-five typhoon striking the city or a volcanic eruption.

"This area is prone to disasters of various types," said Capt. Tony Han, disaster symposium event coordinator. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when a disaster will occur."

The last disasters to strike the area were Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and Super Typhoon Hagupit in 2014.

"On our side we have technology, but on their side they have real world experience," said Han. "So it will be a two-way exchange where we'll learn from them as far as what they've experienced, and hopefully they'll learn from us in terms of what we offer. It should be a very rich educational experience for everybody."

"We will be conducting three engineering projects and numerous medical projects centered around community health engagements and health education fairs," said Wolf. "We'll also be holding a Women, Peace and Security seminar focused on enhancing collaboration with gender awareness and development efforts."

In October 2000, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was unanimously agreed upon by all members. It recognized the role of women in engendering and maintaining peace. It's also been expanded to recognize the role of women in disasters as leaders and not victims.

"It's really looking at the objectives and principles of what it means to have peace and security for women, and we're really trying to contextualize that for Pacific Partnership as a focus for this mission," said Cmdr. Karen Ward, New Zealand navy; Women, Peace and Security lead. "Predominately, it's about protection and participation of women, so in a peacekeeping context a lot of it is about getting women around the table as peacemakers -- involving women as decision makers rather than women just being seen as victims of a conflict situation."

An overview of the initiatives of Women, Peace and Security and The United Nations directive will be presented at the seminar.

"This is very much a side-by-side exchange and we get to learn from each other," said Ward. "Pacific Partnership gives us an opportunity -- an opportunity to share what we've done, what we're doing, and to have an appreciation of what other people have done and are doing."

In addition to these two workshops, medical personnel embarked aboard Mercy will conduct subject matter expert exchanges with their Philippine counterparts on topics like nursing, blood banking, preventative medicine and engineering. Cooperative health engagements, designed to provide side-by-side primary medical care are scheduled in Ligao City, Tabaco City and Duraga. A contingent of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band is also scheduled to perform at various locations throughout the city.

Mercy will depart Legazpi July 11 and transit to Da Nang, Vietnam, to continue the mission. Pacific Partnership 2016 will also conduct mission stops in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Pacific Partnership 2016 is focused on enhancing relationships and multinational-interoperability through knowledge exchange and cooperative training, ensuring partner nations are prepared to collectively and effectively respond when disaster strikes.