U.S., Philippine dignitaries visit San Juan

29 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Terence L. Yancey

The U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie A. Kenney, was the guest of honor at a ceremony in Barangay San Juan in the Municipality of San Antonio, Zambales Oct. 27 marking the opening of a multi-purpose facility at the municipality's public cemetery. The facility was constructed as a joint effort among U.S. and Philippine forces and local laborers.

In addition to the construction, Marines and sailors of Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, currently attached to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), III Marine Expeditionary Force, teamed up with the Philippine Navy to provide school supplies, including a computer, to Barangay San Juan Elementary School and held a medical/dental civic action project at the school. The civic action projects where part of bilateral exercises, Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) FY 2007.

"The construction program has been a plan of the municipality for some time," said San Antonio Mayor Romeo D. Lonzanida. "It was a stroke of luck we were able to get the cooperation of the U.S. and Philippine forces with our local workers."

The timing of the facility's construction was important because it needed to be completed before the start of the municipality's All Saints Day celebration Nov. 1.

"During the celebration, families spend the entire day and night praying with those who have fallen," said Philippine Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. "They will now be able to rest and refresh themselves without leaving the cemetery."

U.S. and Philippine sailors also worked together to provide medical and dental services to the barangay's residents. The medical personnel treated more than 800 local residents, and the dental personnel treated more than 300 others. The medical/dental clinic was just one of many civic action projects conducted by the U.S. and Philippine militaries during the exercises.

"I am very proud of the accomplishments of my Marines and sailors," said Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, the MEB commanding general. "It's a tremendous occasion to see them working hand-in-hand with the Philippine Navy and the citizens of San Antonio to provide the residents with this facility."

The U.S. Marines and sailors also had a gift for the children of the elementary school. They brought with them a donation of school supplies that included a computer and printer, notebooks, crayons, glue, pencils, folders and paper.

"We are a very lucky school," said Angelica R. Gonong, the school's principal. "These donations will help the proficiency of the students and improve the learning environment at the school."

School officials were also happy about having a new computer to replace their outdated one.

"In this age computer literacy is essential for the students," Gonong said. "Most of them will now be able to get hands-on experience with computers for the first time."

Throughout the exercises, U.S. and Philippine forces have worked together during training as well as working with the local communities. The two militaries have taken part in several community relations and civic action projects in provinces throughout the Philippines.

"The U.S. and the Philippines have been friends and allies for a long time, fighting together to preserve freedom and dignity," said Kenney in her speech during the ceremony. "We will continue to work together to not only make the world safer, but also to make a better future for our people so they can have a peaceful, prosperous future."

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