CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – The Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division provided transportation assistance to safely send home stranded students of University of the Philippines Los Baños on Thursday.

This was the Army’s response after its administration reached out for the military’s assistance in sending stranded UP students home after classes were suspended due to the government’s order for nationwide quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.

According to Lt Col Bernard Zildo Fernandez, Commander of the 2nd Civil-Military Operations Battalion, the plan that was agreed upon by the parties was to transport around 750 students to different pre-identified drop-off points in Region 4A and the National Capital Region.

He added that “strict compliance to DOH protocols such as social distancing and thorough check-up by UPLB’s health professionals for COVID symptoms were observed prior to boarding of military vehicles.”

Initially, around 30 students were able to avail of this humanitarian mission extended by the military on Thursday. The students were welcomed by their parents who have been worrying due to recent developments related to the contagion.

“We are thankful to the Army and UPLB for bringing our child home safely. We can now have peace of mind as we observe the quarantine procedures set forth by the DOH and do our share in containing the virus”, said Mrs Trillo, mother of Anthony Theodore Trillo.

Hundreds of students are scheduled to be transported to their respected communities once they are able to comply to UPLB’s requirement of providing certificate of residency from their barangays. The administration also ensures that families are informed of their children’s travel and requires them to be at the pick-up points to receive the students in compliance to the hand-over procedures that they crafted together with the Army.

Col Alex Rillera, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over CALABARZON, said that each military vehicle has a representative from UPLB’s administration during the course of the humanitarian mission in line with the military’s intent of putting premium to the safety of the students.

He added that “we have placed all of our mobility assets on alert for this noble undertaking because we want to ease the worry of the parents and students as well as reduce the burden on the side of UPLB’s administration in caring for their students during these trying times.”

The first batch of stranded students were mostly from the NCR. Succeeding serials will ferry students to the five provinces of Region 4A and the remaining students living in Metro Manila.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of 2ID, said that such undertaking is one his unit’s priority support activities to the implementation of the quarantine procedures.

He added that “such undertaking highlights the fact that these military assets are not only tools for war but also peacetime and disaster response equipment which benefit not only the soldiers but also the people whom we have sworn to serve.”

Time and again, the military has been at the forefront in responding to various incidents in the country. Recently, the soldiers were tapped as first responders when Taal Volcano exploded and military trucks were utilized in ferrying people from the danger zones to safe areas as well as in hauling and delivery of goods to evacuation centers and affected communities in the region.

Maj Gen Burgos ended his statement by assuring “the students of UPLB and other schools as well as the general public in our area of responsibility that your soldiers will remain as your ever-reliable and strongest partners and allies as we go through this very challenging moment in our history and fight what could be considered as the greatest challenge that our generation has ever faced.”

Relatedly, soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division delivered hundreds of boxes of donated mineral water to seven hospitals in Metro Manila which are at the frontline in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. The hospitals which received the donation were RITM, San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center, Philippine Heart Center, East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Medical Center and Quezon City General Hospital.

Maj Gen Burgos also expressed his appreciation to kind-hearted citizens who donated essential items and protective equipment to frontline personnel while saying that “national unity and cooperation will be the key for us to survive this crisis”.

Soldiers manning the checkpoints received mineral water, energy drinks and masks.

As of the moment, 1,164 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division are performing support operations to health care professionals and their PNP counterparts who are manning 125 Quarantine Control Points across Southern Tagalog.