Somali pirates have released a Japanese-owned oil tanker with 18 Filipino seamen on board, the Philippine government has confirmed, Xinhua reported.
Bayani Mangibin, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, told reporters Friday that the Filipinos were among the 23 crewmen of MT Chemstar Venus seized by heavily-armed men on Nov. 15 last year in the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, a lawless region infested with pirates and bandits. The other five of the vessel's crew are Koreans.
The released freighter is owned and managed by the Japanese company Iino Marine.
Earlier, a regional maritime organization said that a sailor, possibly a Filipino, had the priority to get off the ship and fly back to his sick daughter.
"Seafarer Roger Arroyo, the father of a daughter who has cancer and needs an urgent bone-marrow transfer to combat her leukemia, therefore is also free and safe and will be able to fly back to his daughter and family with highest priority as soon as the vessel docks at its next harbor," Ecoterra International said in a statement. Ecoterra International is an organization monitoring piracy in the region.
With this development, 35 Filipino crewmen on two ships remain in the hands of Somali captors.
The organization also said the ship was freed after a ransom was paid to the pirates.
"The last of her (the ship's) captors left...after having received a ransom delivered by tug-boat," the statement said.
Mangibin said he was not aware of any ransom payment in exchange for the crew's freedom. Meanwhile, he reiterated that the government will never pay ransom nor negotiate directly with kidnappers as a policy.
The Philippine government will continue to work for the immediate release of the remaining Filipino seafarers of MT Stolt Strength (hijacked on Nov. 11, 2008) and MV Longchamp (hijacked Jan. 29, 2009), said the spokesman.
The Philippines supplies a third of all of the world's sailors. The 350,000 Filipino sailors operate everywhere, manning major oil tankers, luxury liners and passenger vessels and exposing them to pirate attacks in dangerous regions.Until now, the Philippine government has been in a dilemma on how to provide protection to Filipino seamen. They admitted that banning Filipinos from certain risky regions, particularly the Gulf of Aden, would be difficult because of the rapid mobility of the sailors.