4 Filipino peacekeeping contingent confirmed dead in Haiti

The body of a third member of the 10th Philippine peacekeeping contingent to Haiti has been recovered, bringing to four the confirmed Filipino fatalities from the powerful earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation last week, the Armed Forces announced Thursday.

The body of Air Force Sgt. Janice Arocena was pulled out from the rubble of the Christopher Hotel in Port-au-Prince, which served as headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH), at around 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday.

Arocena, who was assigned as clerk at the office of the Chief of Staff, Central Registry of the MINUSTAH, is the fourth confirmed Filipino fatality in the Haiti earthquake. Two other Filipino women remained missing.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., AFP spokesman, said the recovery of Arocena’s body was relayed by Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy, commander of the 10th Philippine peacekeeping contingent to Haiti.

On Monday, search and rescue workers recovered the body of Jerome Yap, executive assistant to the UN deputy head of mission in Haiti; and on Tuesday, the bodies of peacekeepers Data Processor 3rd Class Pearlie Panangui of the Navy and Army Sgt. Eustacio Bermudez, Jr. were also pulled out from the rubble.

The two Filipinos still missing, Grace Fabian and Geraldine Lalican, both worked at the Caribbean Supermarket which also collapsed.

In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Brawner said news about the recovery of Arocena’s body reached the AFP headquarters at about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday after Dagoy called to give an update.

“On behalf of the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Victor Ibrado and all the men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we wish to convey our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved families of the three soldiers who died with those who suffered the killer quake in Haiti.

“Let their passing instill upon us the sacrifices of the Filipino soldiers in the course of the performance of their duties whether here in the country or overseas.  They are real heroes who unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice while sharing the commitment of the nation they represent to the internal and local peace and security,” said Brawner.

The bodies of the Panangui, Bermudez, and Arocena will be brought to the Dominican Republic International Airport by land on Thursday right after a memorial service at the UN Log Base in Port-au-Prince.

Dagoy, in coordination with UN representatives in Haiti, is coordinating the transport and repatriation of the remains of the three soldiers.

The AFP also assured the families of Fabian and Lalican that efforts are still being done to find them.

Meanwhile, Brawner said members of the 10PCH are no longer directly involved in rescue and retrieval operations at the collapsed Christopher Hotel building. It is now being undertaken by expert rescue teams from Spain, China, France, Iceland, the United States, Guatemala, Indonesia, and the Brazilian Engineer Company which are all equipped with the necessary tools and machinery for the mission.

The 10PCH is currently tasked to transport retrieved bodies from the Christopher Hotel to the Log Base and the Argentina Hospital.

“Also, our troops help secure UN vital installations such as the UNDP compound against looters. The headquarters of the 10PCH continues to serve as trauma clinic for rescued victims,” said Brawner.

The Philippines started sending troops to Haiti for the UN Stabilization Mission in April 2004. Last August 2009, the AFP sent 157 troops for the 10th PCH, half of the number it usually sends to Haiti. The 10th PCH is composed of 14 officers

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