Amateur Radio Remains a Communication Mainstay in Storm-Stricken Philippines
Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) stations activated by the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) remain in demand after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated the central Philippines on November 8. PARA Vice Chief Operating Officer Ramon Anquilan, DU1UGZ, said that mobile radio services are available in some places, but they are patchy and unreliable. Relief trucks are transporting aid supplies and personnel from multinational and local groups. Anquilan said the HERO station staffed by DV6ILA and DW6WAV at Panay Island in Roxas City got a surprise visit from the bureau chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), Fernando Arroyo EA4BB.
“He could not believe his eyes when he saw the station,” Anquilan said. He said Arroyo had a few short QSOs on the spot. After visiting the HERO station nearly every day, he appointed DV6WAV to head his convoy team to meet international aid volunteers at the airport. More than 29 foreign agencies have so far arrived to carry out relief and recovery aid.
The HERO station in Roxas City reported that power has been restored to shops that also have banking facilities, but most residential areas are still with no power. 4F6UUX reported a similar lack of power in parts of Iloilo City. A ham radio transceiver has been provided to the Office of Civil Defense in Roxas City as a secondary means of communication.
In his report on the Leyte-Samar area, Anquilan said the Don Bosco Technical College’s DX1DBT is being staffed by students, while priests are reported at the helms of DU7/N1PK in Cebu and DV1WDJ/5 in Borongan, with DV5PO. Don Bosco supplied more diesel fuel for the generator at the DV5PO HERO station. Paul Ancheta, DV1WDJ, a student and member of the Don Bosco Technical College Amateur Radio Club DX1DBT, spent time at Borongan with other priests to set up a HF station. He reported that while he was able to get cell service at his location, it was intermittent. DV1WDJ said he was able to install an inverter and would soon test out solar panels. Randy Pancito, DV7NGG, has set up the Don Bosco Liloan station serving as the Cebu link to the Don Bosco Borongan lifeline.
Jerick Silva, DV5JMS, of ACCESS 5 updated HERO by reported that they can operate on 7.095 MHz only when the military is not transmitting. He said the military was using his other transceiver at the grandstand command post in Tacloban City. The Albay Province Office of Civil Defense team was reported to be moving an ACCESS 5 team to Borongan, Eastern Samar. DV5JMS requested that DV5PO monitor both 40 meters and VHF 145.650 for better coordination. He said the Office for Civil Defense command post in Manila was also monitoring 7.095. Reni Ellaba, 4F5RAG, was reported to be embedded with the Department of Health teams at the city hospital.
James Uy, DU7JGU, reported that another NORAD 7 team was on its way to Tacloban to help at a hospital there. The team has VHF radios but no HF gear. DX9EVM members from Davao reaching the interior of Palo, Leyte, brought relief goods and handled health-and-welfare traffic. RADNET 5 members are now active assisting a feeding program and relief distributions.
Roy Garbonera, DV8BQI, in Barangay, recounted his experience in crossing to Bantayan Island via Hagnaya Pier and said there was a long queue for loading relief goods. He distributed the goods he had with him and reported a need for nails and tarpaulins as temporary repair material for houses. Mobile phones work, but there is no residential power.
An initial assessment meeting was held in the PARA offices in Manila, although the extent of the HERO contribution may not be known for some time. “Our HEROs are now stretching their resources and capabilities,” Anquilan said, “not only as communicators but also as individuals whose personal lives and families have been greatly affected by this disaster.” — Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.