The Philippine Star

Dellosa mulls training Special Forces personnel as technical divers

- By ALEXIS ROMERO With Christina Mendez With Aurea Calica

Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa has ordered the Army to study the possibilit­y of training Special Forces personnel to be technical divers in the wake of the crash off Masbate that claimed the lives of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and two pilots.

Capt. Jerry Jaucian, diving team leader of the Special Forces Regiment, said the directive was aimed at enhancing the rescue capabiliti­es of soldiers.

“( The Army chief and Armed Forces chief) will discuss the proposal and will determine if it is sustainabl­e,” Jaucian told The STAR in a phone interview yesterday.

The military will still thresh out the details of the proposal. A team of about four to 12 Army personnel may be dedicated to the endeavor.

Jaucian said among the things to be considered are the needed equipment and the personnel who would undergo training.

“If this pushes through, it would increase the number of personnel who can conduct rescue and retrieval operations,” he said in Filipino.

Technical divers can dive to depths of more than 150 feet. Unlike other divers who use compressed air and can dive up to about 130 feet, a technical diver uses tri-mix composed of nitrogen, oxygen and helium gases.

A technical diver needs equipment that would sustain him under water.

Jaucian said the training of Special Forces troops to become technical divers can benefit the public as the lessons can be used during rescue operations.

The Navy only has seven technical divers. Foreign divers and volunteers from the private sector augmented the Navy divers who searched for the bodies of Robredo and pilots Jessup Bahinting and Kshitiz Chand in Masbate.

Meanwhile, President Aquino has ordered the defense department to determine the rescue equipment needed by the military.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has been tasked to assess the needs of the rescue and retrieval teams and to enumerate what needs to be enhanced or upgraded.

Passage of bill sought

Sen. Edgardo Angara called yesterday for the passage of the bill revising the Armed Forces Modernizat­ion Act after lack of enough equipment and training was highlighte­d during the search and rescue operations for Robredo.

Angara noted the team that first responded to the crash site was not able to continue search operations come evening because they did not have adequate showing that there would be a Fujiwhara Effect,” said Quitlong.

As of 11 a.m. yesterday, PAGASA issued a final bulletin for Igme. Quitlong said, “There is still that possibilit­y that it might make a U-turn. As of yesterday, the distance between the two cyclones was 1,300 kilometers.”

Once this happens, it would bring rains over the extreme portions of northern Luzon. PAGASA might even raise public plane, 180 feet on the ocean floor of Masbate Bay last Tuesday.

With civilian foreign technical dive experts linking up with them, the group was also able to retrieve the bodies of Jessup Bahinting and Kshitiz Chand, the pilot and co-pilot of the illfated light plane.

Meanwhile, people from all walks of life and ages continued to pay tribute to Robredo, whose remains have lain in state at the Kalayaan Hall of Malacañang since Friday.

The mourners waited in a long line to view the closed and flag-draped casket and did not leave despite a heavy downpour.

Those from Naga City donned shirts printed with Robredo’s equipment for night rescue.

Also, the Navy helicopter engaged in the search and retrieval operations had to make a precaution­ary landing.

“We have always had great need for equipment like air transport, radar surveillan­ce, and sonars,” Angara said.

“That is why we filed the (bill amending the) AFP Modernizat­ion Act to modernize military infrastruc­ture and equipment to boost the capabiliti­es of the Armed Forces, especially in times of emergency and crisis,” he said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Vicente Sotto III and Gregorio Honasan are pushing for the government to get a new fleet of air assets storm warning signals in some parts of the country.

In an extreme case, Igme might make land fall somewhere in northern Luzon.

Julian, meanwhile, will be out of the Philippine area of responsibi­lity and head toward the southern part of Japan by this morning.

The eye of Julian was located at 900 kilometers east-northeast of Basco, Batanes at 5 p.m. yesterday, photo.

Robredo’s widow Leni and other members of the family attended to the sympathize­rs.

Former President Fidel Ramos, diplomats, lawmakers, local officials, businessme­n, students and various groups also came to pay their last respects.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, the Philippine Navy and the Internatio­nal Police likewise paid their tribute.

Some village volunteers wore “Paalam (Goodbye) Jesse” armbands while actress and socio-civic leader Rosa Rosal donned a white blouse with the Red Cross seal when they visited.

Members of the Philippine for the President and Cabinet officials.

Once passed, Angara said the measure will ensure larger appropriat­ion for the AFP Modernizat­ion Trust Fund.

“This means that more funds can be used to purchase more quality equipment, especially for emergency response,” Angara said.

Angara noted that President Aquino had mentioned in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) the need to boost the equipment of the military.

“If the Revised AFP Modernizat­ion Act will be enacted, as much as P77 billion will be allocated for modernizat­ion over the next five years,” he said. – packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 210 kph. It is expected to move in a northwest direction at 15 kph.

Northern and central Luzon, and the western section of southern Luzon, western Visayas and Mindanao would experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshower­s and thundersto­rms. Coalition on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabiliti­es also came.

Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches offered condolence­s and blessed Robredo.

Members of the Cabinet also took part by standing vigil at the funeral. They were set to give their memorial service last night after the Liberal Party.

Newly installed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also took time to pay her last respects to Robredo after her oath taking at the Palace.

Yesterday was the last day of public viewing for Robredo’s remains, which will be taken back to Naga City today before his burial on Tuesday.

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