Philippine govt scrambles to rescue sailors from Iranians

The identities of the four Filipino crewmen have been established and their families informed

Ronald O. Reyes

Updated: April 15, 2024 11:43 AM GMT

Personnel of the Philippines' Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) visited and assured of the government's support to the families of the four Filipino seafarers who were on board a ship that was captured by the Iranians on April 13. (Photo from OWWA)

The Philippine government has launched efforts to ensure the safe return of four Filipino seafarers captured with 21 other nationalities on board the Portuguese-flagged MCS Aries ship captured by Iranian authorities.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed the capture of the ship in the Strait of Hormuz, near the Gulf of Oman, on April 13 by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Special Naval Force.

We are coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the ship's owner, manager and operator to ensure the safety and well-being as well as work on the release of our dear seafarers, the agency said in a statement on April 14.

The identities of the Filipino crewmen have been established and their families informed, the agency said but did not divulge the names in the statement.

What we are trying to do right now is establish communication with them. We are coordinating with the ship owner to establish a connection with the ship and with the seafarers, DMW Officer-in-Charge Hans Leo Cacdac told reporters in Manila on April 15.

We just got word that they are safe on board. The ship is anchored [in Iran], he added.

DMW assured the four seafarers and their families of full government support and assistance, upon the directives of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Meanwhile, Kabayan Party List Congressman Ron Salo, chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said the Filipino seafarers were in an extremely precarious position.

The incident highlights the continued vulnerability of our overseas seafarers who are among the most affected in any international conflicts, Salo said in a statement.

He, however, lauded the DMW for its swift response.

Salo reiterated that the proposed bill on the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers was critical for the safety and well-being of Filipino workers, whether on land or at sea.

It will not only provide them with greater protection but also ensure that their families are supported, especially in times of crisis, he stressed.

The Magna Carta Bill is yet to be signed into law.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Catholic Church has urged Filipinos to pray and implore our almighty God to touch the hearts of those who seized the MSC Aries to release them, for respect and promotion of rights and dignity of all crew, and for peace to reign in the Strait of Hormuz.

It is sad news. Like their families, we too are worried about their condition. We are so concerned with their situation, said the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Philippine state news agency identified MSC Aries as owned by Gortal Shipping Inc., which is affiliated with Zodiac Maritime Shipping Company.

IRNA News Agency of Iran said that Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

The Philippines is the world's leading supplier of sailors, with over 489,000 Filipino seamen working on both passenger and cargo ships all over the world in 2022.

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