President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today directed the Department of Foreign Affairs to tap various contacts and international organizations for the safe release of the 22 Filipino seafarers who were held captives by Somali pirates for more than five months now.
But President Arroyo reiterated that the government will enforce a ‘no ransom policy’ after the Somali pirates demanded US$ 2.8 million ransom in exchange for the release of the Filipino captives.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, in a phonepatch media briefing from the Saranggani province, said President Arroyo had already instructed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to constantly communicate with the Department of Foreign Affairs’ contacts to facilitate the immediate and safe release of the 22 Filipino seamen on board the Greek-owned bulk carrier MV/Irene EM.
Remonde said the government would stick to its ‘no ransom policy’ to discourage pirates to abduct more Filipino seamen on board a foreign vessels that pass through the Gulf of Aden.
The shipping company also admitted that it encountered difficulties in raising the ransom money demanded by the Somali pirates.
Meanwhile, the US military assured the family of the Filipino seamen on board the MV/Irene that the crew are still alive and safe, allying their families’ fears that some of them might have been killed.
The family of the abducted Filipino seamen appealed to President Arroyo to help them to facilitate the immediate release of their love ones.
Mrs. Erlinda Casas, 68-year old retired employee and mother of Filipino seaman Joven Casas, who was among the 22 captive Filipino seafarers, said the government should lead the fight against international sea piracy.
”I hope my son comes out alive of this hostage situation. The Philippine government should lead the fight against international sea piracy, after all, one third of the merchant sailor around the world are from the country. These men and women need the protection of their government especially in times of adversity,” Casas said.
Casas patriarch Benito also aired his sentiments and appealed to President Arroyo to speed up the negotiation process for the release of the MV/Irene crew.
The other captives hail from Batangas, Iloilo, Lucena, Cebu and Metro Manila.
American Human Rights Advocate Wendy Doromal appealed to the Philippine government, United Nations, the African Union and other international organizations, to intervene for the immediate release of the hostages.
Doromal also said the international community should unite to fight the international sea piracy.
“The international community needs to unite to end the piracy off the coast of Somalia to ensure that the world’s seafarers are protected. This is not merely an economic issue, but more importantly it is a human rights issue,” Doromal said.
“I appeal to the public to join our grassroots effort in signing the petition and contacting officials to demand the release of the hostages of the MV Irene and other pirated vessels,” Doromal also said.(PNA) RMA/rudyma