2 Filipino seamen freed in Nigeria, 2 still held hostage

MANILA, Philippines – Two more Filipino seamen were released by the Nigerian militants who hijacked their vessel last July 4, the Department of Foreign Affairs reported Friday.

The DFA said in a statement that the principal of the Singaporean-flagged chemical tanker MT Sichem Peace confirmed release of the vessel and its four-man crew on July 22.

This leaves two more Filipinos still being in the hands of Nigerian militants, the DFA said.

The DFA said the two released sailors, who it did not name, are now with their 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,” the DFA said, adding that it is working with the sailor’s employer and Nigerian authorities for their repatriation.

On July 20, three Filipino crewmen of MV Sil Tide, a Vanuatu-flagged oil-supply vessel, were freed by Nigerian militants. While welcoming the latest development, the nongovernmental International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. urged government to act more swiftly to address the problem of piracy.

Lawyer Edwin S. de la Cruz, ISAC president, said the government should exert more efforts for the release of Filipinos still held captive in the Horn of Africa.

There are still 40 Filipino seamen held hostage in Nigeria and Somalia. The lawyer said the government must negotiate harder for the release and repatriation of the said Filipino mariners, even as he stressed they are firmly against ransom as well as force to achieve this. “We are for diplomacy,” he said. (Dateline Philippines)