17 Filipino seafarers held captives freed; RP takes measures to protect them

MANILA (Apr. 18) — Seventeen Filipino seafarers on board Greek-owned bulk carrier MV Titan have been released April 15, the Philippine Daily Mirror has learned. MV Titan was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden March 19.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the report and said this development has reduced the number of Filipino seafarers in the custody of pirates to 105, involving seven vessels. Since 2006, about 227 Filipino seafarers have been released and repatriated.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos, Jr. reiterated the Philippine Government’s “no ransom” policy in dealing with pirates’ demands.

“The government does not negotiate with pirates. We coordinate the actions of foreign governments, the local manning agencies in the Philippines and the latter’s foreign principals in our collective efforts towards the early and safe release of the Filipino crew,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DFA has reported that it has stepped up both preventive and remedial actions to address the increasing number of piracy incidients and hostage-taking of Filipino crew seafarers in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean.

Aside from the DFA imposing a travel ban to Somalia, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has also issued directives to manning agencies of ships plying the Gulf of Aden namely: (1) to follow the guidance of the International Maritime Bureau to stay clear by at least 200 nautical miles off the 3,300-kilometer coastline of Somalia; and (2) for all commercial ships to stay within the designated coordinates of the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) being patrolled by the naval and air assets of the Combined Task Force 150.

According to the DFA, Vice President Noli De Castro, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, and other officials have met a number of times with the manning agencies and representatives of the shipping industry to ensure that their ships traverse the affected areas only along this ‘security corridor’ and preferably to do so in convoy formation.

It has also asked the Philippine Navy and the Department of National Defgense to immediately dispatch a naval liaison officer to the Combined Maritime Forces in Manama, Bahrain as the Philippine contribution to this campaign.

Conejos said the Philippine Government issues regular advisories and consistently reminds ship principals to implement precautionary measures on their vessels passing through the “high risk” zone.

With respect to seafarers in custody, the DFA and DOLE will continue to coordinate and meet with the concerned manning agencies and their shipping principals on the release and repatriation of Filipino seafarers.

The DFA, DOLE, and other government agencies also regularly meet with the families of the Filipino crew to extend social and other support.

The DFA also said the Philippines supports all efforts by the international community, whether at the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the International Maritime Organization in London to put an end to the problem of piracy.

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