21 Pinoy seamen freed

Published by rudy Date posted on January 14, 2009

Somali pirates have freed all 21 Filipino crewmembers of a ship hijacked off Somalia three months ago, the government said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said the Philippine-operated bulk carrier seized last Oct. 15 was also released.

“Yesterday the MV African Sanderling with a total Filipino crew of 21 was released in Somalia,” he said.

Conejos said the DFA has no information whether ransom was paid in exchange of the release of African Sanderling.

“No information about that,” he said.

“We adhere to a no-ransom policy. What we do is coordinate with local manning agents, shipping agents, the principal, and the management company.

“They usually employ a negotiator to ensure they have a unified effort to secure their release.”

Conejos said 44 Filipino seamen on board different ships are still being held by Somali pirates.

“For the last seven days, we’re blessed with good news with the release of three ships. There are now only 44 Filipino seamen on board three ships still being held in Somalia,” he said.

These are the MV Chemstar Venus with 18 Filipino seamen on board; Stolt Strength, 23; and Tianyu with three Filipino crew.

Vice President Noli de Castro, presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers, said the African Sanderling is already out of Somali waters and is on its way to Oman.

“From Oman, they will be debriefed and will fly to Manila,” he said.

De Castro said the 21 Filipino seamen are all safe.

“According to the manning agency in the Philippines, the master of the ship declared that ‘everybody is safe,’” he said.

“This is good news for everybody, especially to the families of the seamen.” –-Pia Lee Brago With Jose Rodel Clapano, AP

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