Head of RP peacekeeping contingent, police component chief, among earthquake survivors in Haiti — DFA

January 13, 2010 10:33 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Jan. 13 — The head of the Philippine peacekeeping mission to the Caribbean nation of Haiti in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the commander of its police component, were among the Filipinos who survived the seven-magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished nation on Tuesday afternoon, according to sparse information relayed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Army Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy was reported to have already communicated with his wife in the Philippines while Police Senior Supt. Rodolfo Fuentes relayed through the internet that he and several other peacekeepers were safe in the United Nations Logistics Base near the Port-au-Prince International Airport.

Despite the horrendous experience, the surviving peacekeepers went about their work of rescuing their colleagues in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) who were trapped inside their seven-story headquarters which had collapsed, the DFA reported.

Foreign wire reports monitored by the Philippines News Agency indicated that many UN personnel were missing, including MINUSTAH chief Hedi Annabi, who was in the building when the earthquake struck.

Only two weeks ago, Annabi led UN officials in honoring the Filipino peacekeepers with commemorative medals for securing Haiti, which has been ravaged by civil war and poverty for years.

It is not clear if the survivor-peacekeepers included Brazilians, who composed the largest contingent of peacekeepers in Haiti.

The names of other Filipino survivors and casualties are not yet available.

The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York relayed to the DFA the information that members of Dagoy’s 10th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent are assisting in the search for an undetermined number of UN personnel who were in the building when it collapsed.

There are 157 AFP and at least 15 police personnel in the 10th contingent, plus a few Filipino civilians in other UN missions in Port-au-Prince.

Because there is near-complete breakdown of communication facilities in Haiti, only the UN headquarters in New York could establish contact with MINUSTAH via satellite phone, DFA added.

Dagoy reportedly contacted his wife via satellite phone and asked her to relay to the Peacekeeping Operations Center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that he was trying to account for all members of the contingent.

”While he (Dagoy) did not mention any casualties or damage to the Philippine headquarters in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, he said contingent members were forced to vacate the building after the area was hit by a series of aftershocks,” the DFA reported.

The Philippine Mission said it could not determine at this point the number of casualties among members of the Philippine military and police contingents as well as U.N. civilian staff members serving with MINUSTAH as power and communications line have been cut off, DFA said.

Using information gleaned from internationally-circulated newspapers available in New York City, the Philippine Mission told DFA it has determined that at least three other areas in the capital where Filipino peacekeepers are assigned sustained serious damage from the earthquake.

These areas, where non-UN Filipino personnel reside or work, were not identified.

Aside from the peacekeepers, there are an estimated 445 non-UN Filipinos in Haiti. They are in the garments, telecommunication and power sectors in the country, mostly in middle and upper management levels. A few are clerics. (PNA) scs/GJB

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