PUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWAN, Philippines – Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Marines and sailors gathered for the engineering civic action project turnover and dedication ceremonies Oct. 8 and 9 in Puerto Princesa and Zambales, Philippines.
The AFP service members are with 3rd Marine Brigade, the Philippine Navy. The U.S. service members are with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
Part of a series of humanitarian and civic assistance program projects that took place around the Philippines during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, the ENCAPs focused on improving local infrastructure, specifically schools this year.
“Looking around here at everyone and seeing what we built, it is safe to say this has been a success,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, commanding general of 3rd MEB. “At a school where nine teachers teach over 300 students, Philippine and U.S. Marine engineers constructed a new school building, and renovated part of the school already built, so the teachers can focus on what’s really important – providing an education for the children of this community.”
Since the beginning of September, AFP and U.S. service members have spent countless hours assembling new buildings for the communities. The construction done in Palawan provided two new classrooms and a bathroom for the staff and students of Maoyon Elementary School. In Zambales, the mission was to renovate the school already built and recreate a single building into multiple new rooms.
In addition to the ENCAPS, the two forces held several cooperative health engagements around the sites to provide free medical, dental and optical treatment to as many local community members as possible. From members as young as eight months to those who were over 80 years old, the CHEs goal was to provide relief and care to those who needed it most.
“From 16 Sept. to the 10th of October, Philippine and U.S. service members saw more than 4,500 patients, almost half of which were children,” said Kennedy.
Service members also donated school supplies, textbooks, sporting equipment, reference books, teacher kits, medicine and dental care supplies to local schools as part of the CHEs.
“[Because of AFP and U.S. forces combined efforts], these projects will leave a lasting impact for generations of Filipinos to come.” said Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven.
The focus of these ENCAP and CHE sites was to strengthen the partnership of AFP and U.S. service members while also giving to a community in need, but the larger, lasting impact of these projects will be felt for generations to come, according to Irene V. Dilla, principal of Maoyon Elementary School.
“This school will serve as a landmark and a symbol of our friendship, and the cooperation of the AFP and U.S.,” said Irene V. Dilla, Maoyon Elementary School principal. “The construction of this building is also an expression of the concern for the youth. This building will be used to teach not just the pupils of today, but future generations so they may become productive citizens.”
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, ribbons that stretched across the front of the classrooms were cut to officially signify the opening, and turnover, of the new classrooms. Once inside, as is tradition, commanders, principals, and local community leaders threw rice and coins to symbolize thankfulness, good luck and good fortune for the current and future generations who will attend these schools.
“I would like to express the gratitude of the people of Puerto Princesa,” said Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron. “[From Palawan’s] leadership, and, more specifically, the people of this community, including the children, parents and teachers – thank you. Together we have made a difference for the future of these people, and we have brought joy to many Filipinos.”
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