01 December 2013

Why Airdrop Was Not Carried Out?

PAF C 130
There were many suggestions from those who think they can do better than the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and questioned why no airdrop of supplies were made to areas badly affected by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan)?

Some of these cynics falsely believed that they know better even if they haven't had any experience in relief efforts in their entire pitiful life. Most of the time they just but sit in front of their computers imprinting their nails on the keyboard or living away from the calamity area and in just one day, they thought they are experts. Sadly, they knew next to nothing.

They thought this is the movies where deus ex machina (god from the machine) comes in and saves the day. They thought they can just wish something using an imaginary magic wand and it will happen. Wake-up and welcome to the real world.

"It looks…nice…[but] supplies [were] not there yet," Colonel Miguel Ernesto G. Okol, Philippine Air Force (PAF) public information director, recently told InterAksyon.com.

Report from InterAksyon.com further stated that compounding the problem is the fact that the PAF’s air power isn’t enough. It only has three refurbished C-130 planes, which are now being used to transport medical supplies, relief goods, disaster response teams, disaster response teams, and members of the media to typhoon-devastated areas.

"Aside from bringing in supplies – we were by our lonesome – we were also bringing in emergency medical personnel (and) medical supplies, part of relief goods, and … security personnel," Okol said.

What made the situation worse was that Yolanda had cut off all communication lines.

"Remember we [didn’t] not know yet what [had] happened there...The day after, we practically [didn’t] know what happened," Okol said.

It was only much later that the country's military got a boost from allied forces. There are now 19 C-130s flying the Philippine skies, transporting evacuees from Tacloban City to Manila and Cebu.

Aside from these, the U.S. and Australia have offered the use of their C-17 Globemaster planes, the large military aircraft used in transporting troops and cargo and in tactical airlift, medical evacuation, and airdrop missions.

"The airdropping of things could have possibly happened by Wednesday [fifth day since Yolanda hit Central Visayas on November 8]. But by Wednesday, there were game-changers already. There were passable roads already, there were already many helicopters from all sources," Okol said.

The Philippines has 10 helicopters doing rescue and relief missions. Its air force was boosted by 20 choppers from the U.S. and four more from Japan. The U.S. also lent four Ospreys to help in the rescue and relief missions in the Visayas.

Further support came from the U.S. when it deployed USS George Washington to help areas ravaged by Yolanda. The navy warship carries 21 helicopters, medical facilities, and a desalination system that can convert seawater into drinking water.

Also, the United Kingdom sent its Royal Navy warship HMS Daring to spearhead relief operations in Cebu. The Type 45 destroyer is equipped with a water purification plant, a Lynx helicopter, and specialist rescue teams.

With such logistical reinforcement, plans to airdrop food and other supplies to typhoon victims were no longer pursued, according to Okol.

Okol explained that in the Philippine setting, there are three criteria to consider when doing airdrops:
  1. When there is somebody known to receive the supplies on the ground. “Without organized groups to receive [supplies] on the ground, "[it] would create a security situation. We wouldn't want a mob rule in a particular area," the PAF director said.
  2. When there is threat of ground fire. "Not only because an area is inaccessible, but there is also threat of ground fire, which endangers the landing of troops," Okol said.
  3. When the receivers are floating out in the sea, which was not the situation after Yolanda hit areas in Central Visayas, according to Okol.