The RAF’s first mercy mission to the Philippines was given a warm welcome by the British Ambassador to the Typhoon-battered islands.
British Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr Asif Ahmad chats with C17 pilot, Sqn Ldr David Blakemore on his arrival at Cebu on the 16th of November 2013.Mr Asif Ahmad led the reception committee at Cebu airport as the C17 of 99 Squadron touched down after its mammoth 25-hour trip from RAF Brize Norton. As he watched the first of three rough terrain JCBs drive from the aircraft’s cargo hold he said: “The arrival of this equipment means that the promises the British government made to the people of the Philippines have become real.”
Mr Ahmad stressed that although a lot of medicine and food had arrived from across the world what was lacking was machinery to unblock roads, allowing aid to get to where it was most needed.
He added that red tape for the landing of the C17 had been swept aside by the islands’ head of state President Aquino who gave the RAF’s mission his personal seal of approval.
Representing the President at the airfield was General Roy Deveraturda, the region’s senior military commander, who thanked the RAF and the British people for their contribution to the disaster relief operation.
General Roy Deveraturda, head of the Filippino Armed Forces for the Central Region welcomes the British Aid effort on their arrival at Cebu Airport on the 16th of November 2013
“Your country’s response has been overwhelming. We will always remember these gifts with gratitude. The problems left by the typhoon will stay with us for a long time and we will continue to require a lot of resources. I cannot thank the RAF and the British people enough for their efforts.” The three-star general had already earmarked three “substantially damaged” regions – Aklan, Capiz and Ilioilo – where the three JCBs would make a difference.
The last leg of the C17’s three-stage trip started in Singapore where its captain Squadron Leader David Blakemore took off with the “aircraft close to its maximum” weight. He said: “It’s great to provide a significant lift to the islands and the C17 was brought in for this kind of job.”
The vehicles, driven off the aircraft by Corporal Darren Pollard of RAF Wittering Motor Transport section, were handed to the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).
Royal Air Force movements staff prepare to offload 'Aid UK' Landrovers at Mactan Airport, close to Cebu City in the Philippines on the 16th November 2013.
Its spokesperson Gemma Blackburn said: “It is incredible that we have come together with the RAF for this kind of project. These vehicles are ideally suited to the logistics of aid and are the first of their kind brought in.”
The unloading of the JCBs, two Defender Land Rovers and pallets of medical supplies was done in one and a half hours by three airmen from 1 Air Mobility Wing, based at Brize Norton.
Royal Air Force Personnel relax during the 25 hour flight from Brize Norton to the Philippines, on the 15th/16th November 2013.
Other personnel on the flight included four RAF policemen, a medical officer of the Deployable Aeromed Response Team Squadron and an environmental health technician. Further trips by the C17 and a C130 have been planned.
Editor: Flt Lt Tony Durrant, 7644 Sqn
Photographs: Sgt Ralph Merry
Photo: Royal Air Force Personnel relax during the 25 hour flight from Brize Norton to the Philippines.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013