During November and December this year, Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS) teams of more than 20 specialists will visit areas of the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam in preparation for Pacific Partnership 2012. I am currently with the first of those teams in Western Samar, an island province located in the central Philippines. Pacific Partnership 2008 visited this region on the USNS Mercy, and we are planning to expand that earlier effort and build on the relationships formed during that mission when Mercy returns in June of 2012.
Our efforts began in Manila on October 31. Following meetings with the U.S. Embassy, Peace Corps, the Philippine government and local organizations, we flew to the city of Calbayog in Western Samar on November 4. Based on information developed throughout the past year, we traveled by van to specific barangays, or local communities along the coast, from San Isidro in the north to Catbalogan at mid-island. Our team is composed primarily of U.S. Navy personnel, medical, engineering, logistics and civil affairs experts. Philippine army personnel are serving as our guides and partners in this mission, and barangay officials help us identify organizations with whom we can work to select sites for medical, engineering, and interactive humanitarian exercises during the actual mission, scheduled for June of 2012.
We work with many other nations, one of which is Japan, during Pacific Partnership. Sadly, five of our Japanese counterparts were involved in a traffic accident while driving from Tacloban in the south to meet and join our team in Calbayog. It was a stark reminder that, of the dangers we face in day-to-day life and work, riding in a vehicle seems to be the greatest threat of all, whether that be in the Philippines or the United States. Our thoughts are with the Japanese team and their driver and security escort as they recover, and the Japanese team returns home to Japan.
We have gathered a wealth of information during our intensive visit to coastal Samar, which we will compile and send back to our planning contingent in San Diego. I will continue to provide you updates as we prepare for Pacific Partnership 2012. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Pacific Partnership mission and 2011 efforts here.