PNP SAF joins search mission for victims of Benguet landslides

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A team from the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) has gone on a search and rescue mission in Itogon, Benguet, for victims of landslides that occurred due to Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut).

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told reporters in a press briefing on Monday, September 17, that the team began their search on Sunday, September 16.

"A 24-man search and rescue platoon from the PNP Special Action Force led by Chief Inspector Ramel Rendaje and Senior Inspector Ramel Miramar was inserted into Itogon, Benguet yesterday to assist in the search for survivors of massive landslides," Albayalde said.

He added that the team is equipped to conduct rescue operations in collapsed structures and during "major emergency incidents."

The PNP chief also said police will now be shifting their focus to maintaining law and order in affected areas as well as enforcing regulations on fair trade put in place by the Department of Trade and Industry. This is being done to ensure the availability of goods and to prevent illegal trade practices during the calamity.

Albayalde said police will also be supporting relief and rehabilitation efforts, including road clearing operations, in Cagayan, Ilocos, Isabela, and Kalinga.

The top cop previously ordered all police in Luzon to go on full alert beginning September 13, before Ompong hit the Philippines. This means police will work overtime until the full alert status is lifted.

K-9 dogs helping, too

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Monday that it is sending K-9 dogs to Itogon to help with the search for landslide victims.

It will initially send 3 search and rescue dogs with 6 handlers. The PCG said these dogs are the same ones that helped during the 2013 Bohol earthquake.

An additional 3 dogs will also be recalled from other units in Luzon, according to the PCG.

Ompong has affected over 500,000 individuals and has killed at least 65 in Luzon. Majority of the fatalities come from the Cordillera Administrative Region, which was badly hit by landslides. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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