Staff Sgt. Cashmere Jefferson
U.S. Army-Pacific Public Affairs
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines — Senior leaders and the participants of the of exercise Balikatan 2012, or BK12, held a dedication ceremony to hand over newly-built classrooms, here, April 23.
Each year, Army engineer units from across the Pacific build much-needed facilities in the Philippines. The mission placed engineers side-by-side, or “shoulder-to-shoulder” — the translation for the term Balikatan — with soldiers of the Armed Forces Philippines.
This year, the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, partnered with the 51st Eng. Bde., AFP, to construct buildings to be used for schools and community centers.
“It’s been a great mission and a great experience partnering with our (AFP) counterparts on this school building project,” said Capt. Orlando Craig, commander, 643rd Eng. Co. “We definitely helped an area with the need.”
The 643rd Eng. Co. built two school buildings throughout four rural barangays, or villages, here.
The projects began March 12.
Craig stressed that BK12 was instrumental in providing a great opportunity to build good relations between the Philippine-U.S. nations.
“Dedicating these two schools will go a long way to increase the educational capacity of this area,” Craig added. “The impact on the children will be immeasurable, and none of us will ever forget what we’ve accomplished here.”
The two newly-constructed school buildings, Tagbarungis Elementary School and Inagawan National High School, located in Barangay Inagawan, here, have two classrooms each, as well as a new septic system, water catchment system and comfort room, the Philippine name for a restroom.
Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander, AFP-Western Command, emphasized the importance of the community responding to BK12’s collaborative effort in fulfilling the aspirations of the citizens of Palawan toward a prominent future in education.
“With the assistance of our American friends, we have come together because your welfare has always been our top priority, and is one to which the military has devoted time and energy,” Sabban said. “Giving our children education is like giving them life again.”
The Philippine-U.S. military have a longstanding relationship that has contributed to regional security and stability through deep-rooted cooperation.