Philippines

Red Cross resumes services in Sulu after 10 years

Red Cross resumes services in Sulu after 10 years
By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Philippines News Agency) — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it has reestablished its presence and service in Sulu, 10 years after deciding to shutter its operations there because of violence.

Piotr Dregiel, a Polish and local ICRC office head, said Tuesday that an ICRC team has already visited a hospital in Sulu.

“The team has just returned (yesterday) from Sulu. The main purpose of the field trip was to assess the state of their hospital and to see what kind of support the ICRC could provide to the medical professionals working in that hospital,” Dregiel said.

“Now, as we just have returned from Sulu, it is yet a bit of too early to say anything concrete but depending on the needs, the ICRC will decide as to what kind of support to provide to that medical facility,” he added.

He said the ICRC has stopped providing medical supplies to the hospital in Sulu when the Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped three of its personnel 10 years ago.

Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Jean Lacaba were returning from a relief and medical mission at the provincial jail in Patikul, Sulu on January 16, 2009 when Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped them.

Lacaba and Notter were released April 16 and 18, respectively, of the same year while Vagni was freed sometime in July, also of the same year.

Dregiel said the support, in terms of providing medical supplies, to Sulu hospital will continue since they have just returned to the province “in the same way we are doing for Basilan provincial hospital.”

“But given the situation in Sulu, we would like to do more for the medical facility in Jolo town,” Dregiel said.

“In Basilan for the time being, we will just continue providing medical supplies. Those supplies were meant for those victims in the armed conflict, all for those who are wounded,” he added.

Maj. Arvin John Encinas, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, said the Westmincom is ready to provide security to visiting aid workers whether local and foreign.

Dregiel said the mandate of the ICRC is to help the victims of the armed conflict.

“As long as there is a need to support those people in the Philippines, there ICRC will be present here,” he said. (PNA)

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