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Philippines: ICRC staff enter fifth week of captivity

12-02-2009 Interview

It was four weeks ago today that ICRC staff members Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter were abducted in the Philippines. The ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, speaks about how the organization is coping.

   

   
 
  Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific    
     The kidnapping of ICRC staff was a direct attack against your organization. Why didn't you suspend operations in the Philippines?  

For the ICRC it is never an option to stop its humanitarian activities. In fact, one could say that it is precisely because the IC RC is facing the consequences of the abduction in one part of the Philippines that it is more determined than ever to, for example, do what it can to help civilians who have had to flee their homes because of fighting in another part – and, in general, to step up its cooperation with the Philippine National Red Cross.

 The thoughts of your staff must surely be with their colleagues held captive. What are some of the activities that they are nevertheless carrying on with?  

During the past three weeks, ICRC and Philippine Red Cross personnel have distributed food to displaced families in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. Our staff have also been pressing ahead with projects in Negros and Samar to improve access to safe drinking water. They have just completed a gravity-fed water supply system and boreholes.

In addition, the ICRC is proceeding with its detainee-welfare activities. It recently carried out assessments in jails in Metro Manila and Mindanao, and installed biogas equipment in the city jail in Sultan Kudarat.

And our staff continue to visit areas where civilians are suffering the effects of armed clashes in order to monitor the situation and provide suitable aid.

 Will the abduction of three ICRC workers prompt the organization to review or change its readiness to work in conflict areas around the worl d?

Our organization is constantly reviewing its policies and procedures, not only in connection with security matters but also with regard to the aid it provides in very different situations. The ICRC maintains its determination to help people in conflict situations all over the world.