MANILA – The conduct of humanitarian assistance disaster relief (HADR) missions is the main role of the military in the government’s ongoing efforts against the onslaught of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, was responding to criticisms that the government is using a militarist approach in dealing with the health crisis.
“Very visible ang mga sundalo natin but it doesn’t mean militarisasyon ito (Our soldiers are very visible in this effort but that does not mean militarization). You see, we are a very organized, well-equipped, and well-experienced organization when it comes to addressing not only pandemics but other calamities and disasters that (have) hit our country in the past. Kaya di na bago sa amin itong trabahong ito, in addressing HADR (Addressing HADR missions is not new to us),” Gapay said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday night.
He said this experience in conducting HADR missions is the reason why soldiers were the first ones to be tapped to help government efforts in addressing the Covid-19 threat when the enhanced community quarantine was first declared in March.
“Nandito ang inyong Armed Forces (Your Armed Forces is here) to really help out and mitigate the impact of this pandemic, not only in the health services sector but also in the economic impact (of Covid-19),” Gapay added.
This, he said, is demonstrated by troops helping distribute food packs and other relief goods and in the social amelioration program of the national government.
“Nandito po kami para tumulong sa mamamayan (We are here to help the citizenry),” Gapay said.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would assign the AFP to help manage and distribute Covid-19 vaccines once they become available. (PNA)