AFP chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (right) hands out copies of news articles that run a story about the peacekeepers, during their visit at the quarantine area in Caballo Island on Sunday, November 16. During the visit Catapang announced that the Peacekeepers will be allowed to spend the Christmas and New Year with their families, drawing loud cheers among the peacekeepers.(MNS photo)

AFP chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (right) hands out copies of news articles that run a story about the peacekeepers, during their visit at the quarantine area in Caballo Island on Sunday, November 16. During the visit Catapang announced that the Peacekeepers will be allowed to spend the Christmas and New Year with their families, drawing loud cheers among the peacekeepers.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. visited Friday the office of the World Health Organization-Philippines to personally hand over the “Thank You” letter on behalf of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, days after he and Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin were accused of breaching WHO protocols on the Ebola virus disease.

He arrived at the WHO office at the DOH Building in Sta Cruz,  Manila at around 1:30pm Friday, and met for half an hour with senior representatives of WHO-Philippines, who received the letter.

On the same day, news articles in national dailies carried the statements issued by WHO regarding the correct use of the personal protective equipment (PPE), which critics had said should have been worn by Garin and Catapang when they visited Filipino UN peacekeepers on quarantine at Caballo island after returning from Ebola-hit LIberia.

The PPE is only needed when dealing with persons who have manifested symptoms of the Ebola disease, WHO-Philippines said.

The lone peacekeeper who registered high fever was diagnosed with malaria and was promptly evacuated to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

In his letter, Catapang thanked WHO for issuing a press statement that “supports the DOH and AFP’s action” to visit the UN peacekeepers in Caballo island, without any personal protection equipment.

The Nov 16 visit drew criticisms from various people who feared that Catapang and DOH Acting Secretary Garin might have been infected with Ebola after mingling with the peacekeepers.

“I would like to express my sincerest appreciation for the clarifying statements your organization has issued officially,” said Catapang in his letter.

“Rest assured that the AFP will continue to perform its mandated mission with utmosy professionalism but not compromising the welfare of others.”

Ebola briefing

During the meeting, Dr. Megan Counahan, the Ebola expert of WHO Philippines, briefed Catapang about the Ebola disease.

Learning that Ebola is not an “efficient virus” and “could only infect people who get in contact with bodily fluids of sick persons who got the disease,” Catapang was relieved of his anxiety, according to a press statement issued Saturday by the AFP’s Public Information Office.

“Indeed, like the peacekeepers, I am Ebola-free,” he said.

Catapang expressed his intent to collaborate with both WHO and DOH, in disseminating correct information about the dreaded disease.

“Survivor Caballo”

As directed by Catapang, the peacekeepers are currently competing in different contests as part of their daily routine.

Jokingly referred to by peacekeepers as “Survivor Caballo”, the contests include indoor and outdoor games, song writing, essay writing and photography.

Catapang will award cash prizes to the winners during the Heroes Welcome ceremony in the first week of December.

Pacman fight

The Philippine Navy which owns the Caballo island military facility is providing free live viewing of Pacman’s fight against Algeiritomorrow (Sunday).

Like many Filipinos around the world, peacekeepers are eagerly awaiting the fight.

“He is our idol and inspiration. I hope he will entertain us again this time by mauling his taller opponent,” said Major Gerard Alvaran, the lone Army peacekeeper who served as a UN Military Observer in Liberia.

Pacman holds the rank of Lt. Colonel in the reserve force. He is the deputy commander of the Sarangani Ready Reserve Battalion. (MNS)