RP alarmed over spate of Somali pirate attacks


Posted at Sep 19 2008 08:55 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2008 05:36 AM

The Philippine government is alarmed over the spate of hijacking incidents in Somalia involving vessels with Filipino seafarers on board.

“The international community must come in now,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr.

The number of kidnapped Filipino seamen on board vessels hijacked by by Somali pirates has reached 80.

Reports said the problem became serious July this year when Somali pirates hijacked the MV Stella Maris with 20 Filipino seafarers on board. This was followed by hijacking incidents against other vessels.

On Wednesday, Somali pirates hijacked a Greek-owned freighter MT Centauri. which is manned by 26 crew, all-Filipinos.

“Itong mga pirata na nago-operate sa Gulf of Aden, they all come from Somalia. You know, Somalia is not a stable state,” Conejos said.

Cargo vessels going to Europe and the Mediterranean have to pass the Gulf of Aden where hijacking incidents usually occur.

Reports said pirates hide behind other vessels docked at sea. When their target ship passes the route, they then climb the target vessel and hostage the captain and the ship’s crew.

Pirates would then demand ransom from the ship owner for the safe release of the vessel and crew.

“Filipinos are affected because they're the seafarers. Yung mga maritime countries, yung mga barko nila nahuhuli. The [importing] countries themselves are affected because yung mga goods, di makapasok dahil dyan,” said Conejos.

The Philippine government can only advice its seafarers to be careful when sailing the dangerous route.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Carmelita Dimzon said that all hostaged Filipino seafarers are safe and that the government is doing everything it can to secure their release. -- report from Julius Babao, TV Patrol World