2 Filipino crew released by Niger militants; 2 remain in captivity

Good news to the Philippine seafaring community: two Filipino crewmen of the Singapore-flag chemical tanker MT Sichem Peace, kidnapped on July 4, were released by Nigerian militants last July 22.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a statement said, the vessel’s principal in Singapore, had confirmed to the Department, that Sichem Peace and its four-man crew were released at 2 a.m. (Manila time), two weeks after it was they were seized by Nigerian armed militants.

The DFA statement also said that the two unnamed Filipino seamen are now in the custody of the company’s representative in Lagos and are scheduled for medical examination.

“The vessel’s principal also confirmed that the two Filipino seafarers have spoken with their families immediately after their release,” read the DFA statement.

The DFA also said, the State agency is working with the principal and local authorities for the crew’s eventual repatriation.

However, there are two remaining Filipino seafarers in the hands of Nigerian kidnappers, the DFA statement further read.

Last July 20, the three Filipino crew of MV Sil Tide, an oil-supply vessel of Vanuatu flag, were also released by Nigerian militants.

Meanwhile, the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. welcomes the development but urges the government to act more quickly on the problem.

Atty. Edwin S. de la Cruz, ISAC president said the government should exert more efforts, to immediately release the Filipino captives in the Horn of Africa.

There are still 40 Filipino seamen remain hostage in Nigeria and Somalia, kidnapped by either militants or pirates.

The lawyer said the government must negotiate harder for the release and repatriation of the said Filipino mariners, which might suffer now from trauma and other psycho-physical illnesses because of the incident.

However, he stressed, they are neither for ransom-giving, nor for violent approach in releasing the seamen.

“We are for diplomacy,” he stated.

During the spate of kidnappings in the Gulf of Aden earlier this year, ISAC also called on the governments of the world to address the root cause of the piracy problem in the Horn of Africa, to be able to attain long lasting peace in the region, which is considered the most important waterway in the world.

On the other hand, Anakpawis party-list representatives Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod in June have filed a resolution before the House of Representatives, requesting for a Congressional inquiry about the seafarers’ kidnappings.

Yet, as of this writing, there is no feedback in Congress if the said resolution has been discussed or not. (CBCP News.com)