Philippine government scrambles to save 4 seafarers captured by Iranians

Strait of Hormuz.
Strait of Hormuz.Google Maps

THE Philippine government has launched coordination efforts with the owner of the Portuguese-flagged MCS Aries ship after four Filipino seafarers and 21 other nationalities on board were captured by Iranian authorities while navigating the Strait of Hormuz, near the Gulf of Oman, on April 13.

The Department of Migrant Workers, the country’s agency tasked to protect the rights and promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their families, confirmed the capture of the ship and the Filipino crew onboard by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Special Naval Force on April 14.

“We are also in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the licensed manning agency, ship manager and operator to ensure the safety and well-being as well as work on the release of our dear seafarers,” the agency said in a statement.

The government agency did not divulge the names of the Filipino crewmen in its statement, however, it assured the public that they had already informed their families.

“What we are trying to do right now is establish communication with them. We are coordinating with the ship owner to establish a connection with the ship and with the seafarers,” DMW Officer-in-Charge Hans Leo Cacdac told reporters in Manila on April 15.

“We just got word that they are safe on board. The ship is just anchored [in Iran],” he added.

DMW assured the four seafarers and their families of “full government support and assistance,” upon the directives of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Meanwhile, Kabayan Partylist Congressman Ron Salo, chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said the situation involving the capture of the Portuguese-owned vessel has put the Filipino seafarers "in an extremely precarious position."

"It highlights the continued vulnerability of our overseas seafarers who are among the most affected in any international conflicts,” Salo said in a separate statement on April 14.

He lauded the DMW for its "swift response."

"They have all worked diligently to reassure the families of the affected seafarers and for coordinating efforts aimed at securing their safe release,” the lawmaker added.

As this developed, the Philippine Catholic Church has urged the Filipinos to pray and “implore our almighty God to touch the hearts of those who seized the MSC Aries to release them, for respect and promotion of rights and dignity of all MSC Aries crew and peace may reign at the Strait of Hormuz.”

“It is sad news. Like their families, we too are worried for their condition. We are so concerned with their situation,” said Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos of Antipolo, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines promoter of Stella Maris-Philippines.

“In this problematic situation, we turn to God for His mercy to keep our four seafarers safe, stable, and healthy. We trust our government officials for necessary diplomatic assistance and assurance to exhaust all means to bring them safely home,” the bishop said on April 15.

Philippine state-news agency identified MSC Aries as owned by Gortal Shipping Inc., which is affiliated with Zodiac Maritime Shipping Company.

IRNA News Agency of Iran said that Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

The recent capture of the international vessel continued to heighten the tensions between Iran and Israel following the latter’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1, which reportedly killed two IRGC top commanders along with several Iranian military advisors, according to the Philippine News Agency.

The Philippines has remained the world's leading supplier of sailors, with over 489,000 Filipino seamen working on both ship passengers and cargo across the globe in 2022. (Ronald O. Reyes/SunStar Philippines)


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