August 16, 2009

Please join us in signing the petition to free Bob (Joven) Casas, and the crew of the MV Irene, EM. Bob is the brother of our friend, Gemma Casas, Marianas Variety reporter in Saipan, CNMI.

The Greek-owned shipping vessel was captured off of the coast of Somalia last April. It has been reported that they are running out of food and water. The situation is urgent.

Here is the text of the petition:

To: Bright Maritime Corp.; President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Republic of the Philippines; President Barack Obama, United States of America; President Sharif Ahmed, Republic of Somalia; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; International Maritime Bureau; African Union; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch

Joven "Bob" Casas was one of 23 Filipino crewmen aboard the bulk carrier ship MV Irene when it was seized by Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden on April 14, 2009. We urge each of the addressees and anyone else in a position to help to do everything in their power to enable Bob and his crewmates to be reunited with their families as soon as possible. We also call on the international community to work together to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future.


Your signature here

Some of us have united to spearhead a campaign to get the word out. We have a page up on Facebook now -Libertate Pirate Hostages:
This site is dedicated to all of the hostages being held by pirates in Somalia and off its coast, and to the families of those hostages. Joven "Bob" Casas, the brother of our friend, Radio Australia and Marianas Variety reporter Gemma Casas, was one of 23 Filipino crewmen aboard the bulk carrier ship MV Irene when it was seized by Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden on April 14, 2009. This site was inspired by our desire to raise awareness of Bob's plight, but we know that the issue is much larger and that many families are suffering. We urge freedom not only for Bob and his crewmates but for all hostages everywhere in the world. We also call on the international community to work together to prevent such atrocities in the future. We cannot tolerate the threat to human life, international security and international commerce posed by the lawlessness that prevails off the coast of Somalia.
Mission:Liberate Pirate Hostages Free Bob Now
If you are on Facebook, please sign on to become a fan of the Liberate Pirate Hostages Facebook page. Please share it and invite your friends to sign the petition.

ABS-CBN has covered the story:
With very little food and water supplies, the families of the Filipino crew of MV Irene EM appealed to the Philippine government to step up its pressure on the shipping firm. They likewise urged authorities to negotiate for the immediate release of their kin and for the international community to assist in securing the safe release of the kidnapped crew.

MV Irene is a 35,000-ton oil tanker owned by Bright Maritime Corp., a major Greek shipping firm. The Somali pirates hijacked the ship on April 14, 2009 off the Gulf of Aden, a treacherous area for foreign vessels.

The incident took place two days after the US military successfully rescued Richard Phillips, the captain of the US-flagged Maersk Alabama container ship. Three Somali pirates were killed in the rescue mission.

After MV Irene hijacking incident, four more ships were captured in the Gulf of Aden that same week.

Gemma Casas, a Filipino journalist based in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific said her 43-year-old brother Joven was one of the crew members of MV Irene.

Casas said she last saw her brother in January when she went home for vacation. Her brother, a master electrician at the ship, left for Singapore on the same day she arrived.

MV Irene reportedly picked up its crew in Singapore and headed to China and then to Pakistan before going to the Middle East. Kenya is the final stop of the ship’s six-month tour of duty.

She said her brother last spoke to her sister-in-law, Yolly Casas, when the ship made a brief stopover in Amman, Jordan or a week before the hijacking incident.

“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,” she said.

She added “must we wait for them to be dead before we do something?”

The ship’s captain, Necitas Garcia, was allowed by the pirates to call his family via a satellite phone. He told his family that they have no more food and water.

He also said that many of the crew members are sick or in state of desperation. He added that they even collected water dripping from the ship’s air-con just so they could have something to drink.

The pirates, who are armed with AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons, have kept the crew aboard the ship somewhere in the Gulf of Aden. The ship’s food and water supplies ran out as early as last month, according to Garcia.

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.

“Anarchy and poverty prevails in many countries in Africa like Somalia. They have become perfect breeding grounds for crimes and terrorists who are just waiting for an opportunity to attack the rest of us and their own, no matter our distance,” she added.

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 the 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 Entrampas who is based in Cebu City. The couple have four children—three girls and a boy.

Reports indicate piracy has become a lucrative source of livelihood among many Somalis since the 1990s when Somalia experienced political and social unrest.

In January, Somali pirates hijacked Sirius Star, a giant Saudi oil tanker. The ship’s owner reportedly paid $20 million for its release—the pirates' single biggest loot so far.

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.
Some information about the other crew members is coming in.
Pictured below is Chief Eng. Leo A. Entrampas, Sr. with his wife Mary Ann Entrampas and four children, 1 boy and three girls. They are from Cebu. Chief Eng. Leo A. Entrampas Sr. has been with the Maritime Agency for 14 months. His wife said she last spoke to her husband April 12, 2009.

Mrs. Entrampas appeals to the Philippine government, "Na sana tignang pansin ang mga crew doon dahil ang haba na nang 5 months at WORRIED na ang family namin."

Other posts on the crew and situation:
Responsibility missing in human export equation

Please take just a few seconds to sign the petition now! Become a fan of Liberate Pirate Hostages Facebook page and ask your friends for support in this mission to free the crew of the MV Irene.


Anonymous said...

I signed the petition and am sending this link to everyone in my email address book. Please do the same. FREE BOB AND THE CREW OF THE MV IRENE NOW!

Thanks for getting this information out to the world.

Anonymous said...

Gemma and family

we are praying for Kuya Bob and the crew