Filipino seafarers continue to be victims of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. To date, 44 Filipino seafarers remain in the custody of Somali pirates.
Somali security forces and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) rely mainly on international support in the form of funding, logistics and equipment for continued operations.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1863 approved on January 16, 2009, provided for the establishment of a UN trust fund that will raise funds to provide financial support for AMISOM until a UN peacekeeping operation is deployed in Somalia.
The world body has established two separate trust funds – Trust Fund in Support for AMISOM and Trust Fund in Support of the Somali Transitional Security Institutions. The latter, to which the Philippines is making a contribution, will be managed by the UN Political Office for Somalia.
During the International Conference in Support of the Somali Security Institutions and AMISOM held in Brussels on April 23, at least 30 countries and organizations expressed support during the pledging session.
The donor conference was convened by the UN secretary-general under the joint auspices of the African Union, European Union, and the UN.
The Philippines has been active in calling for more international cooperation to fight the scourge of piracy. It supports all efforts by the international community, particularly at the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the International Maritime Organization in London.
The government has imposed a ban on the deployment of Filipino seafarers in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding areas. It recently designated a Philippine navy officer to act as naval liaison to the Combined Maritime Forces based in Manama, Bahrain, a multinational task force conducting maritime security operations throughout the region.
In her recent trip to Japan, President Arroyo also obtained the assurance of Japan that it will help secure Filipino and other seafarers against pirates in the Gulf of Aden through the dispatch of vessels and maritime patrol aircraft.
“We are aware that negotiations continue and that all 44 Filipinos are unharmed.
We continue to hope and pray for a positive outcome,” he said.
As a policy, the Philippine Government does not negotiate directly to pirates. However, it coordinates closely with concerned foreign authorities and the local manning agencies of the hijacked vessels to secure the early and safe release of Filipino seafarers.
As the Philippines’ contribution to international efforts to stem piracy, Undersecretary Conejos disclosed that the Government has already designated a Philippine navy officer to act as naval liaison to the Combined Maritime Forces in Manama, Bahrain.
The Combined Maritime Forces is a multinational task force conducting maritime security operations throughout the region.
MANILA, Philippines—Twenty-three Filipino seamen who were kidnapped five months ago by Somali pirates are now with hardly any food and water aboard their hijacked ship MV Irene, their families said recently.
The families are thus appealing to the Philippine government to step up pressure on the shipping firm and authorities to negotiate for the immediate release of the seamen, or to secure help from the international community to rescue the kidnapped crew.
Gemma Casas’s 43-year-old brother Joven is a master electrician of the hijacked ship. A Filipino journalist based in the Mariana Islands, Casas quoted the ship’s captain and said that the ship’s food and water supplies ran out early last month.
The ship’s captain, Necitas Garcia, who was allowed by the pirates to call his family via a satellite phone, said he and his crew even have to collect water dripping from the ship’s air-con just so they could have something to drink. He also told his family many of the crew members are sick or in state of desperation.
“I hope the Philippine government does something about the case of the MV Irene crew. Their ordeal has been dragging for five long months now. We don’t know how long these victims can still sustain the mental and physical stress they are suffering from the hands of the Somali pirates,” Casas said.
“Must we wait for them to be dead before we do something?” she asked.
Mary Ann Entrampas, wife of the ship’s chief engineer, Leo Entrampas Sr., said she last spoke to her husband on April 12. She too is appealing to the Philippine government to help the crew of MV Irene.
“We are really getting worried. It’s been five months since they were captured. We hope the Philippine government does something about this hostage situation,” said the Cebu-based Mrs. Entrampas, who together with her husband have four children—three girls and a boy.
Casas said the Philippine government, which calls the overseas Filipino workers “new heroes,” for keeping the country’s economy afloat with the billions of dollars they remit every year, should help the kidnapped seamen just like what the Indian government did, or at least negotiate for their immediate release.
In July, the Indian Navy, with the help of the French government, rescued 12 Indian sailors from the Somali pirates. The rescue mission came within days after their captivity.
“Piracy in Somalia and that of the MV Irene’s case isn’t just about the kidnapped seamen and their families’ crisis. This is about global maritime security that the international community should address to protect people, their livelihood, access to food and oil, and the right to live in a peaceful world,” said Casas.
The pirates who took the ship on April 14, 2009 are armed with AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons, and have kept the crew aboard the ship somewhere in the Gulf of Aden.
MV Irene is a 35,000-ton oil tanker owned by Bright Maritime Corp., a major Greek shipping firm.
Reports indicate piracy has become a lucrative source of livelihood among many Somalis since the 1990s when Somalia experienced political and social unrest. Analysts estimate the Somali pirates earn as much as $150 million a year for hijacking foreign vessels.
About a third of merchant sailors around the world are Filipinos. In 2007, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said shipping companies deployed 389,607 Filipino seamen worldwide, accounting for over $2.6 billion of remittances to the country.
Over time, hundreds of Filipino seamen have been kidnapped by the Somali pirates with their ships. The MV Irene's case is one of the longest hostage situations recorded in Somalia’s history.
Free the crew of the MV Irene
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