Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

ICRC Mindanao operations not suspended

The operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Mindanao are not suspended, Philippine National Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon told INQUIRER.net Saturday.

Asked to confirm reports that ICRC has suspended its operations in southern Philippines over the kidnapping of three of its staffers, Gordon, who is also chairman of the governing board of the International Federation of Red Cross, said the report was a "falsity."

"They do not have an understanding of what this 150-year-old organization does, guarding lives and dignity of people in difficult circumstances, and exercising neutrality," he said.

"I just spoke with them. It's not true. The operations of the ICRC, together with the PNRC, continue," he said.

Gordon said these operations include taking care of the estimated 300,000 people displaced by the resumption of hostilities between government forces and those of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and are now staying in evacuation centers; Red Cross operations also include visiting jails and sending sick people to hospitals.

"All of these will continue. We will not stop our work there. It is not an option for the ICRC. We have worked with the wounded in war, and those deprived of freedom. We will continue to provide food and non-food supplies, water, and sanitation for as long as we are needed," he said.

Earlier, Agence France-Presse reported that the ICRC has temporarily halted operations in Mindanao.

"We are temporarily halting operations in the area so we can revisit and assess our security arrangements," Roland Bigler, ICRC’s spokesman in the Philippines, was quoted saying on the GMA7 television website.

"Our main concern is the safety of our colleagues," Bigler said.

But Gordon said Red Cross regularly assesses the security situation in their areas of operation.

"We always assess. And they are trained to handle these types of situations," Gordon said.

At the same time, he said he has received information that the three kidnapped ICRC staff members are alive.

"I have reliable information that they are alive," he said of the three kidnapped victims.

"We have been receiving information for all over. The MILF is also talking to us," he said.

Gordon said that of the 90 ICRC staff members in the country, 60 to 70 are in Mindanao. He said some are in Tacloban and Samar because of the communist insurgency problem there.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's biggest Muslim rebel group, said it was helping in the hunt for the ICRC workers.

"The latest information we received is that the kidnappers are transferring their captives by land and sea from one island to another," Iqbal told AFP.

Jolo is a known stronghold of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, a 380-member group blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines. (By Veronica Uy, with a report from Agence France-Presse)

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