Seafarers’ NGO urges RP government to act on piracy problem

MANILA, Philippines – With 46 Filipino seafarers still in captivity in Somalia and a number of others also hostaged in Nigeria, the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. has again appealed to the Philippine government to find a long-term solution to the problem of piracy.

Maritime lawyer and ISAC secretary general Joseph T. Entero said in a statement that, with new cases of ship hijackings in Nigeria, the Philippine government should not be complacent and must think of lasting solutions to piracy.

On July 4, the Singapore-flagged, 8,801-ton tanker Sichem Peace, with two Filipinos onboard, was seized 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,” MEND said in a statement.

The hijacking came a day after MEND said it was launching attacks aimed at forcing the federal government to devote more oil-industry funds to the Niger Delta, which remains poor despite its natural resources.

A ship with three Filipinos onboard has also been reportedly hijacked by MEND in Cameroon, although the group has denied involvement in this incident.

Entero said the solution to piracy should not involve military force. However, he also stressed that “band-aid” solutions like temporary bans on the deployment of workers to affected areas would not work either.

He also urged 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.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Ed Malaya said the government is already coordinating with the hijacked ship’s principal in Singapore and the local manning agency, which are conducting negotiations for the release of the vessel and its crew.

Malaya said the Department of Foreign Affairs has 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 that recruited the kidnapped Filipino crew said they and other crewmembers are in “good condition.”  Their families have also reportedly been informed of the hijacking. (Dateline Philippines)