MANILA, Philippines - One of the four missing members of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations in earthquake-hit Haiti has been rescued, a spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.
In an interview, Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said that at 11:30 a.m. (Manila time), the military received a report that Corporal David Catacutan was rescued by members of the Philippine contingent at the Montana Hotel.
Brawner said that based on initial medical examination, Catacutan sustained bruises but was now recovering at the headquarters of the Philippine peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
Brawner said that the family “has been informed about the rescue last night.”
He added that families of three others still missing were also informed and that “we remained hopeful that we will be able to rescue the three others believed trapped on the second floor of the Christopher building.”
Data Processing Technician 3rd Class Perlie Panangue of the Philippine Navy, Sergeant Janice Arocena of the Philippine Air Force, and Sergeant Eustacio Bermudes, Jr. of the Philippine Army worked as clerks at the UN offices on the second floor of the Christopher Hotel, Brawner said.
“We believe that they were on overtime, they were doing overtime because the earthquake happened after 5 p.m. when most of the United Nations workers in that building already left for their barracks or for their respective homes,” Brawner said.
Elmer Cato, first secretary of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview Thursday that “four peacekeepers were trapped.”
“The reports we received only said that they are trapped and the areas where they are trapped. We would like to believe that they are alive and just waiting to be reached by rescuers,” Cato said.
The Philippines told the UN Thursday that it accounted for all Filipino peacekeepers serving in Haiti but that four remained trapped inside the UN headquarters that collapsed following the massive tremor that hit Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations said that Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr., Permanent Representative to the United Nations, also met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and expressed the Philippine government’s condolences over the tragedy that left a number of UN staff still missing.
The Philippine Mission said that Ambassador Davide also later met and condoled with the Ambassador Leo Merores, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the United Nations.
In its report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, the Philippine Mission said Davide requested the floor during a briefing by UN Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Allan Le Roy to report that all 157 military officers and enlisted men and 15 police officers serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) are all accounted for.
Davide said the number included the three members of the 10th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent who remain trapped inside the collapsed Minustah headquarters and another in nearby Hotel Montana, which was also being used by the UN.
He said one peacekeeper sustained injuries during the earthquake but was in stable condition at the Argentinian Hospital.
Davide said the Filipino peacekeepers, tasked to provide security and support services to Minustah headquarters, were working with peacekeepers from other member-states in the recovery effort and in securing the area.
He added that the headquarters of the Philippine contingent at the Italian House across the street presently serves as the casualty collection point for victims recovered from the rubble of the former Christopher Hotel.
Davide also shared the concern raised by other UN member states over their inability to get in touch with their peacekeeping contingents in Port-au-Prince immediately following the earthquake.
He said the Philippine Mission could still not reach Lieutenant Colonel Lope Dagoy, more than 24 hours after the earthquake rocked the Haitian capital.
In his intervention, Ambassador Davide also expressed concern over the fate of an undetermined number of UN staff members from the Philippines, some of who were believed to be inside the Minustah headquarters when it collapsed.
The U.N. said there was around 100 staff inside the building when the earthquake struck.
Among those still unaccounted for are Tunisian diplomat Hedi Hannabi, Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of Minustah, and one of his two deputies, Luiz Carlos da Costa of Brazil.
Davide said there was also no way to check the condition of the almost 500 members of the Filipino community in Haiti, who are missionaries or employed in the garments, power and telecommunications sector.
Ambassador Davide also said that he was informed by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations that the Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti, Monsignor Bernardito Auza of Bohol, who was previously assigned in New York, was safe.
With reports from Agence France-Presse
Photocredits: MARCO DORMINO/ from Inquirer.net