MANILA, Philippines – A mother of a Filipino seafarer is seeking the help of government and nongovernment organizations and even the international community in helping rescue her son who is still being held hostage in Somalia for two years now.
Aurora Gonzales of Jaro, Iloilo City went to the Blas F. Ople Policy Center to follow up the case of her son, 31-year-old Gerald Gonzales.
Gerald, an engine cadet, was on board a hijacked cargo vessel owned by Dubai-based Azal Shipping & Cargo in 2010. He is the only Filipino onboard the Iceberg 1 ship.
Mrs. Gonzales said she received a call from her son at 2 a.m. on March 29, 2010 informing her that their ship has been hijacked.
Since then, the OFW’s family has been relying on updates from the local manning agency, Inter-World Shipping Corporation.
“We urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to go the extra mile in requesting for international assistance because the shipping company concerned has not been forthcoming with answers as to extraordinary delay in the release of Gerald Gonzales,” Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said.
The manning agency, in turn, has been sending e-mails to the operations manager of Azal Shipping & Cargo in Dubai to request for information.
“Gerald’s mother showed us an e-mail thread filled with terse assurances from Azal Shipping & Cargo that the crewmembers are still onboard the vessel and are fine. If they are fine, then what’s holding up the negotiations? Two years is a long time to be in the hands of Somali pirates,” Ople added.
Gerald left the Philippines on April 7, 2009 on his first contract as a seafarer. The family has not received any allotment from the Dubai-based shipping company since the seafarer was held captive. Other Filipino crewmembers went home prior to the hostage-taking incident since their contracts have ended.