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Marines join rebuild effort on islands of Philippines

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

  • The crew of HMS Illustrious lead a working party on Callagnaan Island, where they are helping to repair the roof of Bito-on Elementary School. Other teams have been flown out to some of the smaller islands

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Westcountry-based Royal Marines are helping disaster-hit communities across the Philippines by rebuilding villages and distributing food.

Last week was a busy week for J Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh Barracks in Plymouth, who arrived in the Philippines onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious just over week ago.

The ship's aircraft hangar has been transformed into a warehouse of emergency supplies which Marines have been delivering ashore.

Royal Navy and Army helicopters have been flying aid to the isolated islands around Panay, in the central Philippines.

On the ground the Royal Marines, along with Royal Engineers, have been a major part of the distribution and reconstruction effort under the direction of the Department for International Development.

J Company's commanding officer, Major Andy Dow, said: "J Company is a highly trained team with fit, strong and extremely motivated men at its core.

"Working side by side with our Royal Navy and Army colleagues there is a tremendous amount that we can do to help the communities affected by the typhoon.

"The company has deployed to some of the worst hit areas and we have done everything possible to help the people and set them on a path to longer term recovery," he added.

Marine Ivan Oxley, from Prince Rock, Plymouth, worked with villagers on Calagnaan Island.

"Two weeks after the typhoon struck, the scene was still one of absolute devastation," the 23-year-old said.

"The locals are very tough though and in high spirits. They have been working hard to try and rebuild their lives, but with little in terms of food and building materials they were limited in what they could do.

"We have provided them with enough of the essentials to help them start to rebuild their communities."

"We have distributed food and clean water and we have also helped the locals by clearing out destroyed buildings and dismantling the unstable roofs before helping rebuild them.

"The Royal Engineers with us made sure these tasks were done safely and effectively, reducing further danger to the people."

He added: "I think the thing that I will remember most is the attitude of the people and how they remain so positive during such a difficult time. They have not given up. They just needed a little help along the way.

"I have never met people that were so welcoming and gracious. I feel that we have made a real difference so far and look forward to doing the same for the next set of islands that we visit."

The UK's contribution to the multinational humanitarian aid effort includes 356 pallets of supplies which have already been distributed.

It equates to some 130 tons of stores including 2,048 family food packs, 5,400 tarpaulins, 1,500 litres of water as well as shovels, wheelbarrows, hammers, saws, rice bags and assorted tools.

HMS Illustrious is heading for other island clusters around the central Philippine island of Panay to assess their needs.

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