MANILA — No help is too big or too small for earthquake-stricken Turkey, its ambassador to Manila said Wednesday as he thanked the Philippines’ contingent going there to augment the ongoing search, rescue, and relief efforts following the 7.8-magnitude tremor.
Turkish ambassador Niyazi Evren Akyol personally met the over 80-member team at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 before they checked in for their Wednesday night flight via Turkish Airlines, paid for by the Turkish government.
Akyol called the contingent heroes and said their help was welcome no matter their number in the group.
“There is no small or big contribution. Any contribution is significant right now due to the scale of the disaster, and the dimension, the geographic spread of this disaster. So any contribution is significant for us. And the fact that the Philippines decided to help is significant in itself—meaningful for us in itself,” he told reporters.
"And we are grateful for these 83 heroes that are now going to Turkiye to represent their country. I think the Philippines should be proud of them that you have such dedicated personnel. We are also happy and honored to receive them in our country," Akyol added.
Akyol recalled his country’s own efforts to send relief and rescue workers to the Philippines in 2013 in the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda as part of the 7-decades’ relations between both nations.
The Turkish envoy also relayed his thanks to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for quickly moving to provide assistance to their country.
“The situation is developing, actually, so we are receiving information as time passes as to what possible aid can further be dispatched towards Turkey, and so we will announce it as they happen in the days ahead,” he added.
The inter-agency group of 83 includes trained rescuers, doctors, soldiers, and airmen who will hurdle low temperatures and other challenges in recovering survivors and bodies.
Dr. Alfonso Danac, team leader of the medical contingent from the Department of Health (DOH) said this will be their first overseas deployment in 3 years since they began specialized training. The DOH’s Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team had previously responded to the Taal Volcano eruption in 2020, the aftermath of Typhoon Odette in 2021, and the Abra earthquake in 2022.
“In a way excited, at the same time also hoping that we will be able to face the challenge ng deployment. Kasi hindi madali ito, especially with the extreme weather conditions na hinaharap namin,” Danac said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
The 30 medical workers going to Turkey were tapped from 2 hospitals: Dr. Jose Natalio Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Caloocan City and Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in Pampanga.
The team brought equipment to put up an out-patient emergency room setup capable of treating 100 to 300 patients daily.
Danac said they are prepared for a 2-to-3-week deployment, but added a second trained team is also being prepared to replace them in case the Philippine government extends its aid.
“Sana ipagdasal niyo ang team and hopefully, we’ll make the Philippines proud. We’re doing this for the country and for Turkey,” he said.
The Office of Civil Defense will serve as the contingent’s liaison with other countries and coordinate their status as well as reports they will get from the ground.
Jose Angelo Mangaoang, one of the 2 civil defense officers in the team, said he put off a training event in another country to help in the quake response.
“Supposedly I’m bound for Vietnam this weekend, kaso lang kasi tawag ng tungkulin to. Totoo na ‘to, so hindi na to ‘yong mga training lang natin,” he said. “Kaya tayo pinaghahanda, binibigyan ng opportunities abroad, kaya tayo binibigyan ng exposure, for moments like this na tayo naman ang tutulong sa mga kasamahan natin sa mundo na nangangailangan. So sana makatulong talaga kami," he said.
The military will meanwhile send more than 30 soldiers composed of the 21-man urban search and rescue team from the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, 51st Engineer Brigade of the Philippine Army and the 12-man 505th Search and Rescue Group from the Philippine Air Force.
Search and rescue teams from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) round out the team. Filipinos are among those reported trapped in the rubble in earthquake-affected areas of Turkey 2 days since it was hit.
In Turkey alone, more than 8,500 people have been reported killed by the quake and over 50,000 injured. Members of the European Union as well as Russia and Japan have sent their own rescue teams to the region.
Turkey, Turkey earthquake, Turkiye, rescue, Office of Civil Defense, Department of Health, Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team