US Navy's lead hospital ship returns to PH

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The USNS Mercy, the lead ship of the United States Navy's hospital ships, returned to Legazpi City on June 28, to provide humanitarian assistance to impoverished families and share their expertise in disaster management as part of the 2016 Pacific Partnership initiative.

More than 1,000 sailors disembarked Legazpi City's seaport to take part in the two-week, multinational effort between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Armed Forces (USAF). (READ: US troops head to Albay for 2016 Pacific Partnership mission)

The commanding officer, US Navy Captain Peter F. Roberts, MC, said the hospital ship first visited Legazpi City in March 1987 to provide humanitarian support following super typhoon Sisang (international codename Nina).

RDML Bruce L. Gillingham, added the US Armed forces wanted to share humanitarian and disaster capabilities, skills, and knowledge, as well as compassion, the trait from which the Mercy series of hospital ships sprang from. Gillingham added the Pacific Partnership team has set up an ambitious schedule during their time here, with cooperative health engagements, health fairs and medical care planned. There will also be an emphasis on developing capacity for all who participate, as the events will occur at 7 sites within Albay Province.

"Today we celebrate the beginning of the Pacific Partnership mission here in beautiful Legazpi, and look with great anticipation to the days ahead as we combine our skills, knowledge and compassion, working side by side to treat sickness and injury, growing together as healers and strengthening the partnership between our nations,” Gillingham said.

"The relationship between our countries is as important today as it was in 1987. We were committed then – as we are now – to providing medically ready forces that produce medical readiness and to leverage that training for partner nations such as the Philippines,’ he said.

Gillingham also remarked that more than 600 men and women from the USNS Mercy – made up of medical experts from the US and partner militaries as well as volunteers from non-governmental health organizations – will go shoulder-to-shoulder with Filipinos to establish and strengthen friendships.

"As this multi-national effort occurs," he explained, "women and men from several different nations will link arms to teach each other how to alleviate suffering and restore health."

Additional members of this humanitarian mission for the Pacific Partnership include the Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force. – Rappler.com