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Philippines: abducted ICRC workers receive medicine and personal effects

02-02-2009 Interview

Almost three weeks have gone by since International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter were abducted on the southern Philippine island of Sulu. The ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, talks about the latest developments.

   

   
 
  Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific    
     

 There have been media reports that medicine and other items have been delivered to Andreas, Mary Jean and Eugenio. Is this true?  

    

Yes, our colleagues sa y they received the package we sent, which included medication, some books and other personal effects. We provided the materials to the local authorities in Jolo on Sulu Island on Saturday afternoon. We don't know the precise details of how it reached them but we are happy that it did.

 Why was medicine delivered and who was it for?  

Health information is private and personal. Nobody would want to have their medical history made available around the world. According to our conversations with the three, they are in good health.

 Have you talked to your colleagues recently?  

    

They were able to make contact over the weekend by phone. We spoke to all three and they continue to say they are doing fine. We admire their strength of character and bravery in enduring this difficult situation. Their families and loved ones, who miss them very much, are also showing real stoicism. Eugenio, Mary Jean and Andreas are constantly in our thoughts.

 Can you confirm media reports that your staff are being held by Abu Sayyaf?  

    

We have seen the news report circulating in the media, showing documents allegedly signed by Abu Sayyaf leaders, but we have not seen these documents ourselves. We are in contact with the authorities concerned to determine the authenticity of these documents. So for the moment, we are not in a position to comment as we do not wish to say anything that could compromise our colleagues'safety and well-being, and their rapid and unconditional release.

 Can you tell us what is being done to free them?  

This is of course a very delicate situation and we must be cautious not to compromise the safety of our colleagues or the chances of securing their rapid and unconditional release. For this reason, I'm not in a position to go into further details.

However, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that the ICRC appreciates the support of Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross Society, during this crisis. We thank him for his efforts in trying to find a solution to this difficult situation.

Since the moment we learned that our colleagues were taken, Richard Gordon has been a tremendous support to our delegation in Manila. It goes without saying that it is important to have a partner in him and in the PNRCS, who share the same values and principles, as we are all part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.