President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the government is committed to securing the safe return of 17 Filipino seafarers taken hostage by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“Our seafarers are not alone. The government is doing everything in our power to bring them safely home,” the President said in a Facebook post.
He said the government is in close contact with various countries to secure the safe release of the Filipino hostages.
“The safety of our 17 Filipino seafarers is of utmost concern. [The] DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) is in coordination with their counterparts in Iran, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for updates, and the DMW (Department of Migrant Workers) is in regular communication with the families of the hostages,” Marcos said.
Yemeni rebels seized the cargo vessel Galaxy Leader and held captive its 25 crew members, including 17 Filipinos, in retaliation forIsrael’s offensive in Gaza, the DFA said. The other hostages are from Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Mexico.
The Bahamas-flagged, British-owned Galaxy Leader, with ties to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar, is operated by a Japanese firm.
The DFA said the 17 Filipino hostages were safe.
“All indications are that they are safe and not being physicallyharmed,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
De Vega said one of them was able to contact his family in the Philippines.
“We can’t reveal as many details as you would like in order to protect them as well. However, yes, they’re being held. There’s 17 of them.
And DMW is in touch with their families,” he said.
De Vega said the Japanese company operating the ship and the manning agency of the seafarers are now coordinating with the rebels to ensure the safety of the crew members.
In a statement, the DMW pledged its unwavering support and assistance to the families of the seafarers.
“We are currently working with the Department of Foreign Affairs, aswell as officials of the registered shipping and manning agency of thevessel to monitor the safety and well-being of the 17 Filipino seafarers onboard the ship, and to bring them home safely,” the DMW said in a statement.
In response to the Red Sea incident, the United States, which has called for the immediate release of the ship and its crew, is considering designating Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization.
Speaker Martin Romualdez said the House of Representatives willsupport all efforts to secure the release of the Filipino hostages.
“We call on the international community to join us in condemning this act of piracy and to assist in any way possible to resolve this crisis. The Philippines is committed to working tirelessly to ensure our citizens’ safe return and address the underlying issues that lead to such incidents,” Romualdez said.
“We hold the seafarers and their families close in our hearts andminds, standing with them in solidarity through this incredibly challenging period,” he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the DFA and the DMW to use alldiplomatic channels and resources available to facilitate the immediate release of the Filipino seafarers.
Hontiveros also expressed her sympathy for the Filipino seafarers and their families. “Amid these challenging times, our thoughts andprayers are with the Filipino seafarers and their families,” Hontiveros said.
She also urged the DMW to be “present” for the families by providingthem steadfast support and practical assistance as they awaited rescue updates.
Hontiveros said the latest incident underscored the need for a comprehensive and improved policy framework to effectively manage recurring hazards that overseas Filipino workers, especially seafarers, faced in the course of their work.
“We cannot afford to have our OFWs facing such hazards repeatedly without a strategic and comprehensive plan in place,” she said.