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Saturday, May 09, 2009

23 Pinoy seafarers arrive safely in Oman after being freed in Somalia



The Philippine government today confirmed that a Philippine-flagged ship with its crew of 23 Filipino seafarers on board, arrived safely in the port of Salalah, Oman in the Arabian Peninsula in the morning of April 28, 2009 (RP time) following its prolonged hijacking in Somalia since November last year.


Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque, who confirmed the safe arrival of the M/T Stolt Strength and its 23 Filipino crewmen in Oman, assured that every possible assistance will be rendered by the Philippine government, through its Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Oman, to assist the seafarers and ensure their return to their loved ones in the Philippines as soon as possible.


As this developed, Attorney Vicente Miranda, president of Manila-based Sea Cap Shipping, the vessel's agency in the Philippines, thanked Secretary Roque for ensuring the widest latitude of assistance and efforts effectively securing the freedom of the Filipino seafarers and the release of their hikacked vessel.


In particular, Miranda wrote Roque that, "we would like to extend our utmost thanks and appreciation for your constant support that contributed to the positive resolution of this matter and the safe return of our seamen."


The shipping executive further ensured the seamen's families that the firm "will advise them of the crew's schedule of arrival in Manila at the earliest possible time," adding that upon their arrival in Oman, the seamen would be given a thorough medical check up prior to the process of reuniting them with their loved ones in the Philippines.


The Filipino crewmen on board the M/T Stolt Strength, a chemical tanker of Philippine registry, had been released recently by the Somali pirates after their vessel was hijacked off Somalia in November 2008. However, on the passage out, the released vessel manned by the 23 Filipinos reportedly run short of fuel.


In behalf of the Philippine government, Roque thanked the United States (US) Navy for moving quickly to refuel the drifting Filipino-crewed ship, which enabled it to reach the port of Salalah under its own power.


He also cited a Chinese Navy frigate for escorting the ship and its crewmen until it reached safe waters, along with the efforts of the German Navy in the area providing them with food, water and first aid medicines while covering their passage from the area.


As this developed, the Labor and Employment Chief indicated that the Philippine government is continuing all out bilateral efforts to free any other remaining Filipino crewmen held hostage in Somalia, in coordination with the host economies and the countries engaged in securing a safe maritime passage in the region.


Roque gave the assurance amidst the continuing global preference for the overseas Filipino seafarers, of whom almost 300,000 currently, are peacefully and productively manning most of the trading merchant vessels plying the world's safer maritime areas. 


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