Filipino peacekeepers 'all accounted for,' including 3 under rubble
MANILA, Philippines – Communication problems in quake-hit Haiti are hampering efforts to account for all 462 Filipinos in the Caribbean nation, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.
"We have very limited communication between our embassy in Havana and Haiti with the lines still down," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. told the ABS-CBN News Channel Thursday afternoon.
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Conejos said that 172 Filipino members of the peacekeeping force in Haiti are all accounted for, including the 3 Filipinos who remain trapped in collapsed buildings.
Of the 172, 157 are soldiers and 15 are policemen.
"With respect to the other Filipinos in Haiti, we have not received any confirmed reports yet of any fatalities," he said.
Annalie Maning, a former Filipino worker who worked in Haiti. Maning’s husband Sunny, and brothers Zaldy and Renato are working in Haiti. She has yet to get information about their condition after the earthquake struck.
"Hindi ko po alam kung papaano kasi na-try ko na po lahat ng telephone numbers ng ibang kamag-anak na nandoon, kaibigan wala din po," Maning told ANC's Top Story newscast in an interview.
It was Tuesday morning when she last talked to her husband through internet chat. Her husband works at the El Rancho Casino and just moved into a rented apartment at Petionville in Port-au-Prince.
"They can always call us for updates," Conejos said, referring to relatives of Filipinos in Haiti.
The DFA also said that it would be useful if the families will provide them the names, location and contact numbers of OFWs working in Haiti.
Conejos told Top Story that another way of getting in touch with Filipinos in Haiti is through the Philippine Permanent Mission in New York, in the United States.
"But New York is also depending on the report from the headquarters of the UN, which is also very sparse at this point," he said.
Task force headed to Haiti
The DFA earlier said that a task force was formed within the Filipino Peacekeeping force in Haiti to carry out rescue and relief operations to Pinoys based in Haiti. (Read: Philippines forms team to assist Filipinos in Haiti)
"What we're doing at this time is communicating with our Filipino peacekeeping contingent there so that within their ranks they can also organize what we call a task force dedicated to providing relief and rescue operations to Filipino nationals," Conejos said.
Conejos said the DFA earlier directed Philippine Ambassador to Havana Macarthur Corsino to immediately proceed to Haiti to coordinate rescue and relief efforts and to prepare a contingency plan for the repatriation of Filipinos there.
Haiti is under the jurisdiction of the Philippine embassy in Havana, Cuba.
"I think with this kind of devastation that they've experienced in Haiti, most of them would be left to return and we would like to see a plan coming out from the ambassador so we could program the activities in that area," he said.
Pinoy peacekeeper extricated from rubble
Earlier, a Filipino peacekeeper trapped at a hotel in Haiti was rescued, the Philippine Contingent Commander told the Armed Forces of the Philippines peacekeeping operations center. (Read: One of 4 trapped Pinoy peacekeepers rescued)
Corporal David Catacutan was rescued from the basement gym of the Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince. He suffered slight body contusion but is now in a stable condition, the DFA reported.
The status of the three other trapped Filipino peacekeepers, however, remains the same, the DFA added.
On Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday dawn in Manila), a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, causing massive damage to life and property, particularly in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people were trapped in collapsed buildings while search, rescue and relief operations continue.
Filipino peacekeepers were among those who immediately conducted search and rescue mission after the quake.
"Despite the hardships they themselves went through, they were among the first to respond and help out those who were more in need of help," Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said in a text message to abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Red Cross vows to help
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) on Thursday announced its readiness to assist Filipinos who lost contact with their family members following the destructive earthquake that struck the country.
"To everyone who lost communication with family members and loved ones in Haiti due to the devastating earthquake last January 12, 2010, kindly coordinate with the Philippine Red Cross for updates and possible tracing," PNRC’s Gwendolyn Pang said.
Pang said people may call the Red Cross Operation Center through the following numbers 143; 527-00-00; 524-57-87; 666-50-34; and 994-05-03.
The PNRC said it will try to get updates on the situation of Filipinos in Haiti, and if possible, trace those whom relatives have lost communication with. With reports from the ABS-CBN News Channel