President Arroyo Seeks Help to Release Filipino Hostages

The Casas family posed for a photo before Joven (Bob) Casas left to work on the MV Irene. From left to right: Joven (Bobby), Venus, Gemma & Dave with parents in front.

August 31, 2009

The Philippine Inquirer reports that Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is "seeking the assistance of 53-nation African Union (AU) to combat international piracy, particularly in Somali waters, which has affected many Filipino sailors, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday."

A delegation including President Arroyo, Foreign Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde and Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis left to attend a summit in Libya.

From the Inquirer:
The AU, which is currently chaired by Libya, is the premier institution and principal organization for the promotion of an accelerated socioeconomic integration of the African continent. The summit will discuss peace and security issues on the African continent, including international anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast.

A total of 42 Filipino seamen are still in the custody of Somali pirates. Different rebel groups now run most of Somalia even though a transitional federal government was recently recognized by the United Nations.

The International Maritime Bureau, a nonprofit organization helping fight sea piracy, said the number of ships attacked this year had doubled.

According to its latest report, a total of 78 vessels were boarded by pirates worldwide, 75 vessels were fired upon, and 31 vessels were hijacked with 561 crew taken hostage, 19 injured, seven kidnapped, six killed and eight missing.

President Arroyo warned of a “surge” in pirate attacks, particularly on Filipino seafarers.

“The East African monsoon is almost over and we can expect a surge in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia,” she said in a speech shortly before boarding a Philippine Airlines flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 12:10 a.m. Monday.

Ms Arroyo noted that more than 200 Filipino seafarers had suffered in the hands of African pirates, even if many of them had been freed.

“We are vigorously working to protect our seafarers and this is an issue where Africa’s collective efforts to bring stability and order to the affected areas will be crucial,” she said.

“Africa is increasingly important to the Philippines,” she said. “The peace and stability of Africa directly impact on our energy security, but more importantly, on the safely and welfare of many of our overseas Filipinos, including our seafarers.”
Joven (Bob) Casas, brother of our friend, Marianas Variety reporter Gemma Casas, is one of 22 Filipino crew members who have been held hostage by Somali pirates since April 15, 2009.

Please sign the petition appealing to free the crew of the MV Irene. 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!

Other posts on the crew and hostage situation of the MV Irene: