Here comes M/V PRC Amazing Grace
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - May 9, 2017 - 12:00am

The name fits the vessel’s purpose: M/V Amazing Grace, the Philippine Red Cross Humanitarian Vessel.

The name fits the vessel’s purpose:  M/V Amazing Grace, the Philippine Red Cross Humanitarian Vessel. 

The vessel will be launched and commissioned today at the Philippine Navy headquarters  along Roxas boulevard.  It is a 195-foot military prototype vessel  that was brought late last year  to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Olongapo City  from the state of Alaska. 

President Duterte will be today’s guest of honor and speaker. I think he  is  happy  with the man who had the vision to acquire the first humanitarian vessel to be used as the PRC’s ambulance and disaster response ship – PRC chairman and CEO Richard “Dick” Gordon, who is also a member of the Philippine Senate. 

The name of the vessel, submitted  by 27-year-old nurse and PRC volunteer Raymond Papa, was chosen winner of an online  contest tagged as #NameThatRedCRossShip.  

The vessel is a feather in the cap for  PRC, which is observing its 70th year of founding. 

Chairman Gordon told press people yesterday that three years ago, when Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines, it took some time for aid to arrive in the hard hit areas in Eastern Visayas due to impassable roads and the closure of airports and seaports, which made it difficult for the  government and humanitarian actors like the Philippine Red Cross to bring relief to the affected areas. Trucks carrying humanitarian aid had to line up for days to be accommodated in seaports and sea vessels going to the affected areas.

Last year the PRC made a bold move – the purchase of a ship which can perform its humanitarian work in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific Region.

“The ship is the realization of our vision to establish the Philippine Red Cross as the foremost humanitarian organization in the country, capable of delivering timely humanitarian services that save lives and restore the dignity of the most vulnerable,” Gordon said.

Gordon worked hard with the PRC secretary general, Oscar Palabyab, to make that vision a reality. He salutes the support and funding of partners in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, like the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, British Red Cross, German Red Cross and Japanese Red Cross. 

The ship,  originally called M/V Susitna,  was purchased from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in Alaska at $1.75 million (approximately P88 million) one-third of the amount asked by the borough officers.

Below are the features of this  what I call “incredible” humanitarian vessel: 

– It can operate both as cargo-loaded barge that can haul itself onto shore and a twin-hulled vessel that cuts through choppy seas, said Gordon. It will also serve as relief supply transport ship, medical facility deployment ship, sea rescue and mass evacuation vessel, humanitarian logistics ship, mobile operations command post, and humanitarian education and training ship.

– Its space can hold up to 120 passengers, 20 vehicles, and has a 35-ton overall freight capacity. Its main deck can be lowered  to offload equipment and land on beaches in as shallow as four feet of water.

–  Without cargo, the ship is capable of evacuating a thousand people to safety during large-scale disasters. Without that many people, it can carry 6x6 trucks, ambulances, and relief goods to people affected by disasters in one relief mission.

– The ship needs only a maximum of six personnel as crew. Last year, PRC entered into an agreement with the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific for the provision of  the  crew and maintenance and ship’s maintenance.  

– The PRC, according to Gordon, welcomes volunteers to help maintain the ship especially during disaster operations. They can log on to www.redcross.org.ph.

– The fuel cost to complete a relief and rescue mission (from origin to destination and back) using the ship can reach as high as P2.4 million. Which is why PRC needs financial support from the public and private organizations. “No cost is greater than the value of lives that we can save,” said Gordon.

* * *

One of the services offered by the Philippine Red Cross is blood services, which addresses the need of victims of natural and man-made calamities (fires, earthquake, floods, etc.) and sick persons needing blood. Responding to the call for blood donations, the University of the Philippines Tennis Club, in cooperation with PRC, is holding a Bloodletting event on May 13, a Saturday. So far volunteers have heeded the call to give blood that others (and they themselves, in the future), will live.

 The project is an initiative of Saeed A. Daof, PRC governor and co-chairman of the Disaster Management and Safety Committee that is envisioned to become a major undertaking in cooperation with various organizations around the country. It has the full support of the UPDTC members, headed by their president former Sandiganbayan Justice Narciso Nario, and former Regent Nelia T. Gonzalez. Expected to attend are former Congresswoman Nanette Daza, and Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association Chairman Fred Pascual and President Thad Liamzon. Judges, lawyers, medical doctors, educators, businessmen, deans of colleges, students and housewives have signed up for the bloodletting session. Those who want to donate may call yours truly (CP 0917-5928906).

 A medical team from the PRC headquarters who will be on hand for the bloodletting session are: Dr. Christie Monina Nalupta, director, National Blood Service; Dr. Sheryll Tonelete, manager, National Blood Center; Hansel Sentones, RN, donor recruitment head, and Michaellla Franchezca Torres, RN, donor recruitment officer.

* * *

For many years now, UP Diliman Tennis Club and Baguio Tennis Club have been holding dual meets. Just a week ago, the meet was held in Baguio City. As expected majority of the highland tennisters proved to be better players. Everybody had fun, despite the hot sun beating down our backs.

 Judge Ed Madela, of the Metropolitan Trial Court In-Cities, Olongapo, represented the UPDTC. Businessman Edison Cabaron, BTC president, told us his club has 137 active members. Paz Altos, an incumbent city councilor, once served as the first lady club president. I remember seeing how good the ladies played – Nita Masiclat, Paz and Fanny Claur ( a retired UP professor).

 I thought (wrongly) that my doubles partner Lando Calso and I would beat guys who looked older than us – George Dash, a retired mining executive, and Claro Remoleto, retired senior superintendent of the Philippine Constabulary. Lando and I were up 5-1, then before we knew it, our opponents clobbered us 8-5. Our top UPDTC player, Gemma Rodil and I, did not expect to be beaten by Nora Wernli (a retired military nurse) and Joe Soriano, but they did.

 Our men did try their best: Judge Ed Madela, Egon Borgonio, George Gil, Rolando Calso, Roger Evangelista, Gov. Saeed A. Daof, Rene de los Reyes, Moises Mabuti, Jake Abaygar, Nonoy Salazar, Victor Layda, and Sammy Baybay.

 The UPDTC lady members who merrily rode up to Baguio to play with the tennisters who had become their good friends: Elma Legvinia, Eden Layda, Mela Borgonio, Angie Reyes, Violy Valdemor, and Norma Valerio.

* * *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

 

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