ICRC doing ‘initiatives’ for seized workers – exec

MANILA, Philippines – With time running out, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is now carrying out “initiatives” for the release of three of its workers being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales refused to give further details Friday but said some “officials” and the military in Sulu are working with the ICRC on the “initiative.”

“Merong ginagawa diyan ngayon dahil ang kidnap victims happen to be members of an international organization na hindi naman natin balewalain. Kaya may ginagawa silang initiatives kasama ang ating opisyales at ang military sa Sulu,” Gonzales said in an interview on radio dzXL.

[There are efforts now. The kidnap victims are members of an international organization that we cannot just brush aside. So they are undertaking some initiatives along with some officials and the military in Sulu.]

Gonzales said that while the government wants to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf, it is giving the ICRC some leeway to finish its supposed initiative.

Last January 15, the Abu Sayyaf seized ICRC workers Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter in Sulu. The Abu Sayyaf has demanded that government troops pull out of the area.

“May mga gustong gawin ang gobyerno pero [ang] ginagawa natin, binibigyan natin ng oras. Tapusin kung anong initiative meron diyan. Personal kasi gusto ko ubusin na yan. Pero di tayo dapat mag-abala sa programa. Hintayin antin matapos,” Gonzales said.

[Government has its own plans but we are giving them time to complete their initiative. Personally, I want to wipe out those bandits, but we cannot disrupt whatever initiative the ICRC has.]

‘Regular contact’

On Thursday night, Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, hinted at actions being undertaken for the release of the hostages.

He said they are in “regular contact” with the relevant authorities in Bern, Manila and Rome and they are kept abreast of developments.

“I’m not in a position to go into more detail on these discussions or ongoing efforts to secure our colleagues’ release because I don’t want to complicate these efforts. But I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate our appeal to the kidnappers to let Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio go as quickly as possible and without conditions” he said on the ICRC website.

On the other hand, Gonzales said that once the present ICRC crisis is over, he will push for a requirement for any foreigner entering Abu Sayyaf-infested areas to have military escorts.

Those who refuse military escorts should sign a waiver releasing the government from any responsibility should anything happen to them, he said.

“Sa susunod ito hihilingin natin, ang mga foreigner na gusto pumunta sa area na ganyan at nagpipilit na walang escort papipirmahin natin ng waiver. Pag may nangyari sa kanila bahala sila sa buhay nila,” Gonzales said.

[Next time we will have them sign a waiver if they refuse military escorts. If something happens to them, they will be on their own.]


Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 8:41 am  Comments Off on ICRC doing ‘initiatives’ for seized workers – exec  
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