DFA dispatches RP envoy to Havana to quake-stricken Haiti

January 15, 2010 10:50 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Jan. 15 — Philippine ambassador to Havana Macarthur Corsino is due to arrive in the quake-ravaged Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday to coordinate Philippine government efforts at rescuing Filipinos still trapped in the ruble of the Tuesday disaster, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The Corsino team will help look for the missing, repatriating the dead, providing emergency medical assistance to the injured and uplifting the spirit of those who survived.

This was relayed to the press Friday afternoon by DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., who noted that the International Organization of Migration (IOM), a United Nations-linked intergovernmental body, will be helping with the repatriation.

As Haiti’s international airport has also collapsed and cannot be used, Corsino will fly out of Havana to Haiti’s neighbor to the east, Sto. Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and enter Haiti by land.

As of Friday afternoon, six Filipinos were still missing: three Army peacekeepers, one civilian employee of the U.N. and two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) of the Caribbean Supermarket, Haiti’s biggest.

”We are hoping for the best in the case of these OFWs,” Conejos told reporters, mentioning that all efforts are done to extricate Geraldine Calican and Grace Fabian out of the rubble. Their colleague, identified as Aurora Aguinaldo, has been rescued and is now “safe and sound.”

The OFWs are among the 462 non-peacekeeping Filipinos living in Haiti. At least 35 are civilian employees of various United Nations agencies; the rest are affiliated with volunteer organizations and clerics.

Philippine contingent commander Lope Dagoy, who is among the survivors, disclosed that one of the civilian U.N. employees missing is Jerome Yap, administrative duty officer of the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretsary General.

Aside from DFA’s on-site presence in Haiti, through Corsino, a 22-member medical mission led by the Department of Health (DOH) is due to leave “as soon as possible” not only to help the Filipinos but other victims as well. Conejos described this mission as a “humanitarian gesture of the Philippines to a country that is suffering heavily because of a disaster."

Also, a crisis team at the Department of Foreign Affairs has been in operation since Tuesday. Team members are working the phones 24 hours (phones 843-3333, not only dispensing with information for friends and relatives of the beleaguered community in Haiti but also soliciting advice and information that can help speed up the rescue and repatriation efforts. (PNA)



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