Seafarers’ NGO urges RP government to act on piracy problem

Manila – With 44 Filipino seafarers remain in captivity in Somalia and a number in Nigeria, the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. once again, appealed to the Philippine government to find a long term solution to the piracy problem.

Maritime lawyer and secretary-general of ISAC, Joseph T. Entero said in a statement, with new cases of ship abductions in Nigeria the Philippine government should not be complacent and must think of solutions, a long lasting one, he stressed, to the problem of piracy.

On July 4, Singapore-flagged 8,801 ton tanker, Sichem Peace, with two Filipinos onboard, was abducted 18 miles off Koko, Nigeria, by members of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta.

“Their arrest is meant to serve as a warning to others that there are root issues that have to be resolved with the Nigerian government before normalcy can resume,” said MEND in a statement.

In a news report, the hijacking came a day after the militants said they would carry out phased attacks that increase in intensity until its goal has been achieved as part of an operation dubbed “Hurricane Moses.”

The planned attacks aimed to force the federal government to devote more oil-industry funds to the Niger Delta, which remains poor despite its natural resources.

There is also reported ship abduction in Cameroon, with three Filipinos held hostage by alleged members of MEND but the group denied their involvement to the incident.

“This must not involve sending military troops in the area, having a Rambo attack to free the captives, but finding diplomatic and peaceful solutions to the problem. However, band-aid solutions won’t work such as imposing a temporary ban of sending workers to those areas, which is impossible and only abets illegal recruitment, just like what’s happening on the earlier bans in the Mid-East,” he said.

The lawyer fears for the safety of the hostages and urged the government to respond quickly to the problem.

He also urges the United Nations and other concerned agencies to provide developmental and diplomatic solutions to the problem of poverty and criminality in the Horn of Africa.

Meanwhile, DFA spokesman Ed Malaya said, in statements published by news agencies, the department is already coordinating with the ship’s principal in Singapore and the local manning agency, which are conducting negotiations for the release of the vessel and its crew.

The DFA spokesperson said the department has already instructed the Philippine Embassy in Abuja to “make representations with Nigerian authorities for the safe release of the Filipino crew, and for the Philippine Embassy in Singapore to facilitate the conduct of the negotiations.”

On the other hand, the manning agency, which has recruited the kidnapped Filipino crew, said the Filipinos and other crew members are in “good condition.”

Their families have also reportedly been informed of the hijacking incident. (Noel Sales Barcelona)