Mon, Dec 15, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Philippine foreign minister dies in Taiwan hospital

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople died yesterday after suffering a heart attack during a flight from Tokyo to Bangkok that made an emergency landing at CKS International Airport.

Ople, 76, began having breathing difficulties during the Japan Asia Airways (JAA) flight late Saturday night.

The JAA crew attempted to resuscitate Ople while the plane diverted to Taiwan for an emergency landing, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦).

Ople was in Japan for a regional summit with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last week. His plane diverted to Taiwan after diplomats in Manila called their Taipei counterparts for help, Shih said.

Medical staff at CKS Airport said yesterday morning that doctors at the airport boarded the plane around 11pm Saturday and found Ople showing no signs of life.

They rushed him to Minsheng Hospital near the airport in Taoyuan County. The hospital pronounced Ople dead on arrival, but said he was given emergency treatment nonetheless.

Ople's family arrived in Taipei at 8:40am yesterday.

Wu Hsin-hsing (吳新興), Taiwan's representative in Manila, sent his condolences to Ople's family, saying his passing away was a major loss for the government and people of the Philippines.

Employees at the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs wept as Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Frank Ebdalin announced Ople's death yesterday.

"Ople had breathing difficulties and then lost consciousness," Ebdalin said.

Despite a bout with pneumonia and a bad cough in recent months, Ople attended international conferences, often in a wheel chair.

"The nation mourns the death of a great Filipino," Arroyo said. "We were awed by the vision and indomitable wit of Secretary Blas Ople. He was an architect of Philippine foreign policy in the finest tradition of enlightened and pragmatic diplomacy."

Ople was labor minister under former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in 1986 by a popular uprising. He began serving as an opposition party senator in 1992 and was Senate president briefly in mid-1999.

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