US troops in Iloilo

By MONTESA GRIÑO/ PNS

ILOILO City – Sixty-eight US Navy troops have been deployed to Panay Island to help in relief and rescue operations. All four provinces of Panay – Iloilo, Antique, Aklan and Capiz – have been badly hit by Typhoon “Frank.”

These 68 American troops, led by Admiral James Wisecup, are an “advance party” of a bigger number of US soldiers coming over to help, said Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the 32nd Civil Relations Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“They’re here on a humanitarian mission,” he stressed.

Yesterday, President George W. Bush pledged US help to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He said an aircraft carrier is on its way to the Philippines to aid in the relief effort.

Bush, after White House talks with Arroyo, also expressed condolences for the victims of Typhoon “Frank.”

Five US Navy ships, including the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan, the aircraft carrier, are expected to arrive in Region 6, military spokesman, Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

Bombo Radyo’s website reported that the aircraft carrier will be stated in Iloilo while American troops are conducting relief and rescue operations.

US troops will also be bringing eight helicopters, Marquez added.

USS Ronald Reagan is the biggest and the newest Nimitz-class aircraft carriers of the US. It will also help in the search and rescue operations in the waters of Romblon where MV Princess of the Stars – carrying over 800 passengers and crew – sank.

According to DyFM Bombo Radyo, with the USS Ronald Reagan is the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, destroyers USS Decatur, USS Gridley and USS Howard and frigate USS Thach.

Help keeps on pouring in. A Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane left Manila for Iloilo City yesterday afternoon to deliver relief goods to the flood-ravaged Western Visayas.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Alexander Yano and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog saw off the plane at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

Yesterday’s flight was the 15th C-130 relief sortie to Iloilo City.

USS Ronald Reagan has a displacement of 95,000 tons of water if fully loaded. It has a top speed of over 30 knots and its engine is equal to two nuclear reactors.

USS Ronald Reagan is estimated to be as long as the height of the Empire State Building in New York

USS Ronald Reagan carries over 5,500 personnel and over 80 airplanes.

Hopes were fading for the over 800 people still missing after Princess of the Stars capsized in huge waves.

“I know there are families that are hurting, some are wondering whether or not their loved ones will reappear,” President Bush told reporters in the Oval Office with Arroyo at his side. “We want to help our friends in a time of need.”