'That Others May Live' - Part II

In his second post from the field, WFP's Deputy Chief of Aviation, Philippe Martou writes to tell us about the role that he and his team played at the beginning of the week in an urgent food distribution program in the mountains east of Manila. The area was hit hard by Tropical Storm Ketsana in September and subsequent storms Parma and Lupit. WFP has airlifted food and resources into the region as well as two Mi-171 helicopters to assist with ongoing operations.

Last week we covered the activities of Philippe and his team as they worked tirelessly to deliver food to remote and mountainous regions. With Philippe's latest installment we are fortunate enough to be able to feature some dramatic images from the operation and hear first hand what it takes to move food and resources deep into the field. WFP will continue to provide support for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday afternoon, I was requested to join an urgent coordination meeting at the NDCC, the Philippines National Disaster Coordination Council. Present were representatives of NDCC, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Philippines Air Force, WFP Programme, the Logistics Cluster and WFP Aviation – UNHAS (United Nations Humanitarian Air Service).

General Rabonza, the NDCC’s Executive Officer, opened the meeting by informing us of the existence of isolated and cut-off populations in Tanay, Cardona and Binangonan, urgently requiring relief goods. Those regions were hit by tropical storm Ketsana and, due to the additional heavy and unusual rains during the month of October, were still accessible by helicopter.

We immediately decided to use Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, as a forward staging area for all flights to the cut off municipalities of Tanay, Cardona and Binangonan. Trucks with food and non food items were dispatched to Camp Capinpin during the night from various warehouses in Manila to. One helicopter was tasked to begin relief flights the following morning by continuing to carry relief items to the camp.

Today we departed Manila with all our fuel reservoirs fully filled to allow as many rotations from Camp Capinpin as possible. The helicopters are unable to refuel in Camp Capinpin so the extra fuel is critical. We left Manila’s Villamor Airbase around 08:00 with one ton of food and flew to Camp Capinpin to pick up Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel to support the distribution plan. The DSWD team and cargo (food and non food items (NFI’s)) were carried to Laiban, Tanay. We landed in an abandoned field between the mountains and had to chase off two water buffalo before being able to land. We off-loaded the cargo in record time and dropped off the distribution team after which we returned to the camp to pick-up the second DSWD team and two tons of food and NFI’s for Santa Nino. We found a sandy patch next to the river where we could land without too many problems.

On the way back to Camp Capinpin, we picked up the first DSWD team from Laiban and brought them back to be ready for the next distribution. The best location to land in San Andres was another abandoned field and the one in Cayabo, a sandy patch in the middle of a river.

Today, we flew rotations between Laiban, Santa Nino, San Andres, Cayabo and Camp Capinpin to deliver food and NFI’s to the people living in the cut-off area’s in Tanay. We returned just before sunset after having dropped off the DSWD teams in Camp Capinpin, to Manila, Villamor Airbase.

Today, we proved again that WFP Aviation is there to respond immediately to the most urgent requirements for the most needful.

It was a day well spent reaching cut-off populations and making a difference by saving lives.

Tomorrow we are tackling the isolated area’s in Cardona and Binangonan.

And yes, we keep our motto, 'That Others May Live' in our hearts and minds.

-Philippe Martou