Cuisia honors California-based emergency response groups for saving 2,000 lives in Leyte

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014. Filed under: Local News
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. presenting a plaque of commendation to members of Team Rubicon during ceremonies at Skirball Cultural Center.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. presenting a plaque of commendation to members of Team Rubicon during ceremonies at Skirball Cultural Center.

Los Angeles – Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. in separate ceremonies, presented plaques of appreciation to Mammoth Medical Missions on 06 November 2014 at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles and Team Rubicon of Los Angeles on 07 November 2014, for their crucial roles as the first foreign responders to arrive in typhoon-devastated Leyte.

To mark the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, Ambassador Cuisia visited Los Angeles to present plaques of commendation to Mammoth Medical Missions and Team Rubicon. Mammoth was one of the first foreign rescue teams to reach the disaster area, saving numerous lives in Tanauan, Leyte.  The award was received, in behalf of Mammoth Medical Missions by Mr. David Page, Chief Operating Officer and Dr. Sara May, Chief Medical Officer.

The following day, Ambassador Cuisia attended a reception hosted by Team Rubicon where the Ambassador also recognized the valiant and humanitarian acts of Team Rubicon.

“Many of our kababayans are alive today because of Mammoth Medical Missions and Team Rubicon,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

“The casualty list could have been higher had Mammoth Medical Missions and Team Rubicon not made it to the area on time. As a result, numerous lives in Tanauan and nearby areas were saved.”

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. presenting Plaque of Commendation to Mammoth Medical Mission represented by Chief Operating Officer David Page and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarah May.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. presenting Plaque of Commendation to Mammoth Medical Mission represented by Chief Operating Officer David Page and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarah May.

Described as the most powerful storm in modern history, Yolanda/Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people, injured close to 30,000 and displaced more than four million in its rampage across the Central Philippines. It also affected the lives of another 12 million in 44 provinces.

Ambassador Cuisia recalled that it was at the height of Yolanda/Haiyan’s fury that the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. received calls from Mammoth Medical Missions and Team Rubicon requesting permission to deploy teams to the Philippines.

He said Mammoth Medical’s team of 16 doctors and nurses led by Dr. Michael Karch was on its way to a mission in Mexico when they decided to divert to the Philippines where their expertise in mass casualty incidents would be put to better use. At the same time, Team Rubicon, which is made up largely of military veterans, was also organizing a team for immediate deployment.

However, both teams could not proceed immediately to Manila as regulations require foreign medical missions to first secure permission from the Department of Health. The process takes at least 48 hours.

“We knew the situation was critical and time was of the essence,” Ambassador Cuisia said adding that what he did was to immediately call Health Secretary Enrique Ona in Manila and convinced him to waive the requirements for both teams.

Ambassador Cuisia said he then called then Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista and secured his commitment to make sure both teams reach the disaster area. The Embassy also requested Pilipinas 911, a local response group, to assist the two teams.

Less than 72 hours after Yolanda/Haiyan struck, Mammoth Medical was in Tanauan, Leyte, making it the first foreign rescue team to reach Ground Zero. It was followed a day later by Team Rubicon.

“Looking back, I know we made the right call,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “Numerous lives were saved because of our friends from Mammoth Medical Missions and Team Rubicon and for that we will forever be grateful.”

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