Palace to help families of Filipino MH17 victims

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

MANILA (Updated) - Malacañang has assured that the Aquino administration is ready to extend assistance to the families of the Filipinos who perished from the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down in Ukraine.

Three Filipinos were among the 298 people aboard the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The families of those who died were seeking assistance in facilitating for the repatriation of the victims’ remains.


"Handa naman po tayong mag-extend ng ganitong assistance. Normally, we do extend repatriation assistance to the loved ones of our Filipinos who may have perished in other countries," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte also said the government will extend help if the families wish to go to Malaysia or to Netherlands to arrange the repatriation of their loved ones.

Candlelight vigil for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
A woman looks at newspaper cuttings at a candlelight vigil for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the country is "deeply concerned" that the site in Ukraine where the Malaysia Airlines jetliner was shot down with 298 people onboard "has not been properly secured. (AP)

The Philippine government has no information yet whether the remains of the three Filipinos were recovered from the crash site because of the ongoing unrest in the area.

Valte said investigations have yet to establish who controls that region to recover the bodies. There will be difficulty doing that due to instability in the eastern part of Ukraine.

There is a Consulate General of the Philippines in Kiev, Ukraine and there is a Philippine embassy based in Russia, which may assist in facilitating repatriations, Valte said.

President Benigno Aquino III has been informed about the crash on Friday and the deaths of the three Filipinos, said Valte.

The President extended his condolences to all the affected families.

"Rest assured that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is coordinating with our embassies abroad to ensure the speedy release of information," Valte said.

Authorities have said that Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was hit by a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile over eastern Ukraine. The area is controlled by pro-Russia separatists.

American authorities said it is highly likely that the anti-aircraft missile was launched by the separatists being supported by Russia.

Both the Ukrainian government as well as the pro-Russia separatists denied shooting down the Malaysian airliner.

The Philippine government also condemned in the "strongest manner" the shooting down of Malaysian airliner.

"We convey our profound condolences for all who perished in this tragedy," the DFA said in a statement.

The DFA called for all countries to unite in order to determine the perpetrators in the tragic incident.

A doll lies at the plane crash site
A doll lies at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday. World leaders demanded Friday that pro-Russia rebels who control the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give immediate, unfettered access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the plane. (AP)

Forensic teams fanned out across the Netherlands on Saturday to collect material including DNA samples that will help positively identify the remains of victims killed in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.

Police said in a tweet that 40 pairs of detectives from the National Forensic Investigations Team would be visiting victims' relatives over the coming days.

Their aims are to build a database of material including DNA and photographs of distinguishing features like scars and tattoos that can be used to identify bodies and body parts recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines said 193 of the 298 passengers and crew killed in Thursday's aviation disaster were Dutch.

The airline released the full list of passengers and crew on Saturday and appealed to family and friends of the victims to contact the carrier so it can get a full picture of the next of kin.

"In the past 45 hours, the airline together with various foreign embassies have made every effort to establish contact with the next-of-kin but is still unable to identify many more family members," Malaysia Airlines said in a statement.

Across the Netherlands, at sports clubs, schools and churches, friends met Saturday to console each another and attempt to come to terms with their loss.

The European Union police coordination body Europol said Saturday it would assist Interpol and other agencies in identifying victims in Ukraine.

"We will do our utmost to support the work that must be done following this horrific incident, where hundreds of families and friends to the innocent victims on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 are grieving and left with unanswered questions," Europol Director Rob Wainwright said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said it is assessing security in Ukraine before taking a decision about possibly flying next of kin to the country where their family members lost their lives.

A spokesman for the airline said family members were being cared for in Amsterdam while a team from the carrier, including security officials, is in Ukraine assessing the situation.

The spokesman, who declined to be named in line with company policy, said the team was trying to travel "500 kilometers (310 miles) through difficult territory" to reach the area where wreckage of the Boeing 777 landed.

Dutch newspapers carried pages of photos and stories Saturday about the dead. Travelers flying out of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport laid flowers and signed a condolence book before boarding their flights, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur.

"I am not really afraid. It's good that they kept the same flight number," Mirelle Geervliet said as she prepared to board the aircraft.

"It doesn't change anything. If you change the number, people will start to be afraid."

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on a visit to the Netherlands, was among those who signed the condolence book at the airport.

"This is a real tragedy — a tragedy for families, for nations and for the HIV AIDS community," Annan said, referring to several AIDS researchers who were on the doomed flight. "We should all hope that a thorough international investigation will be conducted and we will know what happened and the culprits should be held to account."

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans was in Kiev on Saturday, pushing for a fully independent, international probe into the downing of the plane, a day after Prime Minister Mark Rutte steered clear of apportioning blame but vowed not to rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice if it is proven to be an attack.(SDR/AP/Sunnex)

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