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Balikatan 38-23 turns over community project in Baler

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City — Combined troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces constructed and completed a community health care facility in Barangay Suklayin, Baler Aurora, as part of the Engineering Civic Action Project (ENCAP) of Balikatan 38–23.

After 25 days of construction, by the 355th Aviation Engineer Wing, Philippine Air Force, and the 9th Engineer Support Battalion of the US Marines, the community health center was formally turned over to residents in a dedication ceremony held on the project site on April 26, 2023.

The community health care center was established in response to the residents’ need for immediate and convenient access to quality health services.

The dedication ceremony of the said Balikatan project was led by Aurora Governor Christian Noveras, who expressed his gratitude to the Balikatan Exercises for choosing the province of Aurora as one of the recipients of the project.

“This community health care center will serve as a tangible testament of the unending friendship between the United States and the Philippines. I would like to thank the US forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for choosing the province of Aurora as a recipient.”

He further emphasized that the Balikatan is equally focused on community development as it is more on military training.

“I hope it won’t be the last time that Balikatan will be conducted in the province. This project symbolizes that Balikatan is not all about joint military exercises, but rather it is an attestation of the strong commitment to addressing the plight of our people through humanitarian civic assistance,” Noveras said.

For his part, Lieutenant Colonel Marcos Gillet, US Marine Corps, Commanding Officer of the 9th Engineer Support Batallion, said that the project is a reflection of the friendship between the Philippines and the United States and decades of working together as partners and allies.

Meanwhile, residents of Barangay Suklayin also expressed their gratitude to the Balikatan for their newly constructed health care center.

“I am grateful to the Balikatan Exercises for building a health center in our barangay; it is a great help to our very large barangay. We will utilize it properly and take care of it,” said Antonio Mata, Barangay Captain of Barangay Suklayin.

Helen Portera, a barangay health worker, also happily expressed her gratitude to the Balikatan for their community health facility.

“For the past 12 years, as a BHW, we have not had a designated area; now, we are very happy that we have one, and those who need treatment, especially pregnant women and children, will be accommodated,” Portera said.

The community health center in Barangay Suklayin is one of the three development projects carried out under the Engineer Civic Action Program of Balikatan Exercise 38-2023. One of these is a health center in Sarrat, ILocos Norte, and a multi-purpose hall project in Antique.