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Breaking Barriers and Bridging Bridges: Balikatan forces create health centers for communities in North Luzon

By Manny D. Balbin

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City — The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces’ 38th Balikatan Exercises 2023 have taken a significant step towards improving the lives of the residents of Brgy. San Joaquin, Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. The newly-constructed Health Care Center has opened its doors after a month of construction since March 28, 2023, providing much-needed medical assistance to the community.

Joint Task Unit, 548th Engineer Construction Battalion, 51st Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, and the 523rd Engineer Support Company, 130th Engineer Brigade, of the United States Army Pacific worked together as part of the Humanitarian Civil Assistance (HCA) and Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) to construct the facility.

The dedication ceremony for the Community Health Center was held on Friday, April 28, 2023, and was personally attended by COMMO KARL A DECAPIA PN, Deputy Commander of Northern Luzon Command. During the event, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, the building marker was unveiled, and the facility was blessed.

The formal turnover of the facility to the local government of Brgy San Joaquin, Sarrat, Ilocos Norte marked a significant moment for the community, as the Health Care Center will allow residents to receive medical attention without having to travel to other barangays.

For the people of Brgy San Joaquin, the Health Care Center represents hope, compassion, and a brighter future. Hon Michael A Lardizabal, Brgy. The Chairman of San Joaquin expressed the community’s immense gratitude towards the initiative and efforts of the US-PH military.

“Barangay San Joacquin is indeed
blessed today to be a recepient of Balikatan 38-23 project, that is putting a community health care center that would cater to the medical needs of our constituents. After a month, this project has come to a reality and today we dedicate this project to the people of Sarrat. The project is really a great help to us,” said Hon. Lardizabal.

During his message, COMMO DECAPIA highlighted that this undertaking is enabled by the ongoing Balikatan Exercises

“The Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board form the annual framework wdirects and enables defense and security cooperation between the U.S. and Philippine militaries. This is anchored on the mutual defense treaty between these two allies who shares the same values and commitment to peace and security. The balikatan exercise that we have now is an enabling arm of this treaty.”

“You are the reason why this center was built, and we believe that it will serve its purpose in providing you with quality healthcare services with utmost compassion and care.The benefits of this health facility will be felt by our community for years to come, which serves as a reminder of the importance of international partnerships and collaborations towards achieving sustainable development goals, “ furthered COMMO DECAPIA.

This is not the first time that the Balikatan forces have brought healthcare to a community in need. Another Barangay Health Center, ENCAP site in Brgy Suklayin, Baler, Aurora, was formally turned over to the Aurora local government on April 26, 2023.

The Balikatan forces are committed to breaking barriers and building bridges, providing much-needed assistance to the communities they serve. The newly-built Health Care Center is a testament to its unwavering dedication, hard work, and service to the people. (UnliNews Online)

Manny D. Balbin
Manny D. Balbin
Emmanuel "Manny" Dineros Balbin, founder and editor-in-chief of UNLINEWS ONLINE and UNLINEWS Digital Newspaper, is a former seminarian of Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in Notre Dame University Seminary in Cotabato City. Graduated college with Philosophy and Political Science courses at the University of Santo Tomas, Legazpi City. A former Journal Group of Publication (People's Journal, People's Tonight, Taliba & Women's Journal) staffer for 17 years. Before, he simultaneously contributed news articles to 3 local newspapers in Bulacan (NewsCore, MetroNews & NewsWatcher). He is the founder and the former editor-in-chief of RONDA Balita, both in weekly newspaper and online news. A former Kabayan provincial reporter, 2010 Bulacan election correspondent by Rappler and presently, a stringer of Philippine News Agency (PNA) Bulacan.


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