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12 MARCH 2008
RP SEEKS ANSWERS TO PEACEKEEPER'S DEATH IN SUDAN
NEW YORK—The Philippines is asking the United Nations for answers in connection with the death last year of a Filipino Army officer who was reported to have succumbed to malaria while serving as a UN peacekeeper in the Sudan.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York said it has sent a diplomatic note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterating Manila's request for the official investigation report and other documents on the death of Lt. Col. Renerio Batalla who had served as a military observer with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
The Philippines also raised its concerns over Batalla's death in the statement delivered by Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN, before the 2008 Substantive Session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on Monday.
"It has been more than four months since Lt. Col. Renerio Batalla of the Philippines expired but there are still questions left unanswered," Ambassador Davide said in his statement.
"Unfortunately, we do not have the answers as until now the Philippine Government has not received a copy of the Board of Inquiry report on the circumstances surrounding his death," he said. "The Philippines seeks those answers to help Lieutenant Colonel Batalla's family find closure and also to allow us to draw lessons from this tragedy."
A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Batalla died a day after his 41st birthday and a few weeks before he was to end his tour of duty while serving as a military observer for UNMIS in the remote regional capital of Rembek in southern Sudan.
According to Ambassador Davide, the Philippine Mission basically wants to know if Batalla received prompt and proper medical care after he presented himself at the UN clinic with malaria-like symptoms; if indeed he died of cerebral malaria; and if enough efforts were exerted by UNMIS authorities to have him evacuated immediately to the nearest regional medical facility.
"The Philippines, like any other troop contributing country, gives particular importance to the safety and security of the men and women it sends to distant lands to help keep the peace," the ambassador said.
The Philippines is among the 30 top troop contributing countries with a total of 670 military and police personnel serving in the UN missions in Afghanistan, Cote d' Ivoire, Darfur, Georgia, Haiti, Liberia, Kosovo, Nepal, the Sudan and Timor-Leste. The number includes 21 military observers, 13 of whom are deployed in the Sudan.
Ambassador Davide noted that from January 2007 to February 2008, 109 peacekeepers died while serving in UN missions. Almost half the number of deaths has been attributed to health-related causes, including that of Batalla.
"We are sure that there are many things we could learn from his death the same way we could learn from deaths due to health-related causes or other non-hostile incidents, most especially those that could have been prevented not only by proper screening, training and supervision but also by the provision of the needed support systems in the field," he added. ###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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