Amateur Radio Disaster Response in Philippines Winds Down
After weeks of deployment the Philippines Amateur Radio Association (PARA) HERO (Ham Emergency Radio Operations) Network stood down November 27, although some activity continues during the disaster cleanup. PARA Vice Chief Operating Officer Ramon Anquilan, DU1UGZ, said that four stations — DU1IVT, DU1VHY, DV1SMQ, and DU1EQ — remain in operation to monitor for any assistance from local HERO stations. Much remains to be done in the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which injured more than 26,000 people, displaced some four million residents, destroyed 1.2 million houses, and wreaked extensive damage and destruction to agriculture and to the Philippine infrastructure.
Anquilan said that while PARA and its HERO Network stations realize that rescue and relief agencies now are handling the bulk of vital emergency communication traffic, his organization still has plenty to do. He said this includes accurately documenting what the HERO Network was able to accomplish, gaining visibility by authorities and communities, and furthering HERO’s role in disaster preparedness. He said authorities already are taking greater notice of HERO, and PARA wants to make sure its role is not forgotten within the enormity of the disaster.
In the hard-hit Tacloban area and the rest of Eastern Visayas, an ACCESS-5 Amateur Radio team continues to be embedded with the Command Post National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Tacloban City. Three operators are on duty there. ACCESS-5 Tacloban is now augmented by some 35 ACCESS-5 members from Catbalogan, Samar, and Burauen, Leyte. PARA Secretary-General Butch Pacana, DU1RP, drove from Davao City to visit HERO stations in Borongan, Eastern Samar and Tacloban City. While in Borongan, he had the chance to act as courier for the situation report from Eastern Samar to Tacloban City — the first official situation report from Eastern Samar. This helped provincial officials find a suitable means of transport to Tacloban. He reported that HERO operators were coping well and up to the task. Don Bosco Technical College (DX1DBT) officials maintain their HF link between Borongan, Eastern Samar, Cebu and Mandaluyong in metropolitan Manila.
In the Central Visayas, Iver, DV6ILA, is still active from the Capiz Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Roxas City. The DV6ILA signal got a big boost through the donation of an HF transceiver by Bing Rodriguez, DU6RCR, and a microphone loaned by Bob Garcia, DU6BG. Arnel, DV6WAV, reports that power is back on at the Capiz State University where he’s a professor, and that he has activated another VHF/HF station.
Anquilan said that PARA now has a permit to import equipment, and its Board will meet on its placement and use. He acknowledged donations by Patrick Prescott, KC1AJT, who sent an HF transceiver, and Stanley Jungleib, WA6LVC, who sent an antenna tuner.
On November 17, Anquilan appeared on both the BBC World Service radio and National Public Radio, in interviews arranged with ARRL assistance. “We are just hobbyists, and we are converted into this public service role when there are emergencies,” he told the BBC, calling public service work on ham radio “uplifting and fulfilling.”
Anquilan told NPR’s Rachel Martin on “Weekend Edition Sunday” that the Secretary Defense was one of the first people to use the Amateur Radio link set up in Tacloban. He explained that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Interior had been dispatched to Tacloban before the storm, and after the hurricane hit, the central government in Manila did not know their whereabouts. “Even the president could not contact his cabinet on the ground in Tacloban,” Anquilan said. “So, one of the first messages for us to relay was the message of the Secretary Defense.”
Anquilan and Nathan Eamiguel, DU5AOK, were featured in radio interviews on November 23. “The program’s host, Francis ‘Kiko’ Flores, welcomed the participation of Amateur Radio in the emergency,” Anquilan said. “He recalled his own experiences in the 1991 Baguio earthquake, where he personally experienced the usefulness of Amateur Radio emergency communications.” — Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee