Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Embassy Team Directly and Regularly in Touch with Relatives of Missing Filipinos in Christchurch Quake

Embassy Team Directly and Regularly in Touch with Relatives of Missing Filipinos in Christchurch Quake

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 13:57 Public Information Service Unit

1 March 2011- The Philippine Embassy team in Christchurch and the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) are coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila to facilitate and gather the fingerprints of the 11 missing Filipinos to be brought to Christchurch to help in identifying the missing Filipinos.
The DFA-OUMWA has also requested their relatives to secure the dental records and other medical records of the missing Filipinos to help in their identification in Christchurch.

The DFA-OUMWA has forwarded to Christchurch the information about the said Filipinos that are available at the DFA Office of Consular Affairs database.

The Embassy team is directly and regularly in touch with the relatives of the 11 Filipinos who remain missing in the aftermath of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the city a week ago.

The DFA-OUMWA is also continuously assisting them by ensuring that they are provided regular updates about the ongoing efforts done by the Embassy team in Christchurch.

Charge d'Affaires (CDA) in Wellington Giovanni Palec has reported that the New Zealand police are gathering evidences including personal belongings (e.g., the last clothes worn, etc.) to verify identities of those who perished through DNA testing. New Zealand authorities would not release the identities of those who perished unless and until they have recovered the bodies and verified their identities through DNA testing.

The DFA-OUMWA is assisting the relatives of the missing Filipinos who wish to go to New Zealand to assist in the identification of the fatalities. It is coordinating with the New Zealand Embassy in Manila for the issuance of visas. It is also assisting in the expeditious release of the relatives' passports and other requirements for the trip.

Earlier, the DFA reported that CDA Palec, through a telephone conference Saturday with the Cebu-based families of the five of the missing Filipinos believed trapped in the rubbles of the CTV building, apprised the relatives on the latest updates from New Zealand police and other officials and the initiatives undertaken by his team.

The missing Filipinos are Jessie Lloyd Redoble, John Kristoffer Chua, Ezra Mae Medalle, Emmabel Anoba, Jewel Francisco, Ivy Jane Cabunilas, Mary Louise Anne Amantillo, Valquin Bensurto, Rhea Mae Sumalpong, Erica Nora, and Lalaine Collado Agatep.

No person has been rescued alive since last week.

A certain Elisa Torres, who was earlier thought to be Filipino, was determined to be of another nationality.

Mr. and Mrs. Sumalpong and Mrs. Lourdes Redoble, parents of two missing Filipinos, are now in Christchurch to assist in the identification of their loved ones.

The DFA-OUMWA also verified that two of the 11 Filipinos are Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) members -Lalaine Collado Agatep and Ivy Jane Cabunilas. As members, they are entitled to OWWA benefits and assistance.

The Philippine Mine and Safety and Environment Association offered assistance to send a trained team to New Zealand to assist in the search and recovery operations in Christchurch. However, the New Zealand Government politely declined as there are already sufficient search and rescue teams on the ground.

The embassy team had repeatedly asked and prodded rescue officials to continue on with the search, given the text messages that were sent by a number of missing Filipinos immediately after the quake to their families here on their conditions and locations.

Authorities are now on the recovery phase of their operations, including in the CTV area which has received intense international attention due to a large number of missing students, including Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and others.

The New Zealand police shifted from search and rescue to recovery phase on Friday.

The remains of those recovered are transported to a military camp in Christchurch, where the identification and processing take three weeks.

Police authorities have yet to release a consolidated list of missing persons with their nationalities, despite repeated requests by New Zealander and other families searching for definitive answers as to the status of missing loved ones.

The Embassy team arrived 23 February early morning in Christchurch to coordinate efforts with authorities as well as look after the welfare of the 2,000-strong Filipinos in Christchurch.
The team continues to assist the Filipino community in Christchurch, distributing water purifying tablets and food provisions to them. They are also encouraging the community to avail of counseling and victim support offered by the authorities. END