Manila asks APEC for piracy protection

Published by rudy Date posted on April 29, 2009

The Philippines, the world’s biggest supplier of merchant sailors, Tuesday called on fellow APEC members to improve the protection of ships against pirate attacks off Somalia.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza told APEC transportation ministers that Filipinos and Philippine-flagged vessels are “in the lowest category in terms of priority in [naval] escorts in Somalia.”

“Secretary Mendoza appealed to the ministers of the different APEC economies to give assistance,” Transportation Department spokesman Elena Bautista told reporters on the sidelines of the ministers’ two-day meeting.

“We are appealing for help for developing economies and their seafarers, particularly from the Philippines, who are manning their ships.”

Slow-moving oil tankers, which carry mostly Filipino crews, should be given “special protection” by Navy forces already in Somalia, Bautista said.

She said APEC members acknowledged that the piracy problem needed to be addressed and that efforts against it be stepped up.

APEC, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which groups 21 economies across the region, held its annual meeting of transportation ministers in Manila on Monday and Tuesday.

The Philippines used the occasion to “reiterate [our call for] all naval forces that are now in the coalition to protect the Somali waters,” Bautista said.

Ship repels new attack

Bautista said a Chinese navy frigate escorting the Philippine-flagged chemical tanker MV Stolt Strength, which was released by pirates last week, had recently repelled a second hijack attempt.

The vessel, with its 23-man Filipino crew, was freed last week after five months in captivity. But it ran low on fuel and supplies shortly after departing and was stranded in waters east of Somalia.

The Chinese frigate Huangshan came to its aid, providing fuel, food, water and medicine until it reached a safe port of call in Yemen, she said.

“Pirates yesterday tried to reach Stolt Strength, but the Chinese made a decisive action and deployed choppers that eventually drove the pirates away,” Bautista said.

The Philippines supplies the world’s maritime industry with more than 350,000 sailors, who serve on oil tankers, luxury liners and passenger vessels.

Over 80 Filipinos aboard several ships are still held by Somali pirates.

US Navy snipers earlier this month shot dead three pirates and captured one in a daring rescue of an American captain held hostage by the gunmen.

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