Sunday, 12 July 2009

Philippine President hails release of Red Cross volunteer

”In behalf of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, we would like to commend the safe release of Mr. Vagni by his abductors to the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

”The President also cited Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) chairman Sen. Richard Gordon for helping in the negotiations for the release of Mr. Vagni before dawn today. We leave it to Senator Gordon and the ICRC for taking charge of Mr. Vagni,” Remonde said.

Vagni arrived this morning at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City past 11 a.m. It was however not clear whether the former Abu Sayyaf hostage would be taken to Malacañang to meet President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo within the day.

Vagni would be taken to the Italian Embassy in Makati City, PNRC said in a statement. He will undergo Critical Incidence Stress Management.

Vagni was released at about 12:45 a.m. in Lagasan Asibin in Maimbung, Sulu. He was subsequently flown to Zamboanga City, where he ate hefty servings of noodles and ice cream before leaving for Manila.

Report said no ransom was paid for the release of Vagni, who was abducted last January 15 with his two other companions from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), namely, Mary Jean Lacaba and Andreas Notter.

Lacaba was released on April 2 while Notter walked free from his captors on April 18.

Vagni, 62, married and with two children. He and his family reside in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is an engineer by profession with specialization in water supply systems. He was educated in Canada and has worked with many private companies and various aid organizations around the world.

Vagni has been working with the ICRC's Water and Habitat (WatHab) projects in the last eight years and prior to his posting in the Philippines, he worked for the benefit of communities in Ethiopia, Myanmar, North Caucasus and Afghanistan.

Together with Mary Jean Lacaba, water and sanitation engineer working with the Davao sub-delegation office in Davao City, Vagni is actively involved in ICRC's provision of food and water supplies and sanitation facilities to more than 16,000 displaced families or 80,000 people from December 1, 2008 to the present in the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat in Central Mindanao.

The ICRC WatHab team have supervised, monitored and coordinated with the PNRC chapters in Central Mindanao for the construction of 60 permanent toilets and laid out 400 meters of water pipes in the evacuation centers in order to alleviate the living conditions of both Christian and Muslim evacuees affected by the conflict.

Vagni was also involved in sanitation projects that helped improve the living conditions of both inmates and guards at the the provincial jails of Basilan, Sulu, Ipil , General Santos, North Cotabato, Surigao del Sur (Bislig), Surigao del Sur (Tandag), Davao Oriental (Baganga), Davao Oriental (Lupon), Compostela Valley, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Norte and others in Mindanao. (PND)

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