Three Filseamen released by Nigerian rebels

Quezon City, July 23, 2009—Three Filipino seafarers held hostage in Nigeria were released last July 20, says the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Jose Redel, Felipe Bacaling, Jr., and Monico Bardelas, crewmen of the Vanuatu flagged oil-supply vessel MV Sil Tide were released by Nigerian militants on July 20 the DFA press release stated.

Their ship, together with its crewmen, were captured by alleged members of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) last March 14 in Cameroon.

The DFA said the local manning agency of the vessel had informed them that the Filipinos are in good condition and underwent medical examination. They have been able to talk to their families, after their release, the DFA told the media.

Furthermore, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA), is coordinating with the local manning agency for the Filipino crew’s repatriation, says the DFA.

However, the DFA disclosed, there are still four Filipino seafarers that are still held hostage by other Nigerian militants.

Earlier, seafarers’ non-governmental organization, International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. has sounded the alarm over another series of ship abductions and crew kidnapping in the Horn of Africa.

Atty. Joseph T. Entero, ISAC’s secretary-general said, that the Philippine government must act immediately to the piracy problem, victimizing Filipino and foreign seafarers.

But he forewarns the “band-aid” solutions by the government, and that is, banning seafarers to go to the pirate-infested regions in the world, particularly in the Horn of Africa.

“Like we have said before, it only abets illegal recruitment,” he explained.

The maritime lawyer also explained, there is no way that a ship can avoid going to the Horn of Africa, especially the Gulf of Aden, being the one of the world’s most important waterways.

“Most of the fleets, carrying important goods like petrol and raw materials, pass through the Horn of Africa. For this is the easiest way to reach Europe and the Middle East. Therefore, there is no escape for our mariners in going there,” he said.

However, Entero stressed, there is a need to reassess the situation for the MEND and other militant groups in the horn of Africa had already said their reasons why they abduct ships: poverty.

“Yet, let me clarify, we are not condoning such acts. What we want to tell the world is, the people there are impoverished, neglected and they are desperate to catch their government’s and the international community’s attention to help them get out of penury,” he said. (Dateline Philippines)