overseas Filipinos

2 Filipinos dead in Gulf of Aden Houthi attack

Michelle Abad

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2 Filipinos dead in Gulf of Aden Houthi attack

An aerial view of the Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence ablaze following a Houthi missile attack at sea, March 6, 2024, in this handout photo.


(5th UPDATE) The entire Gulf of Aden has been deemed a 'high-risk area' since February

MANILA, Philippines – At least two Filipinos have been confirmed dead in a recent attack by Houthi rebels on the True Confidence vessel in the Gulf of Aden, Philippine authorities confirmed on Thursday, March 7.

“We in the Department of Migrant Workers sincerely extend our deepest condolences to the family and kin of our slain, heroic seafarers,” the DMW said, withholding the seafarers’ names.

There were 15 Filipinos onboard True Confidence. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a separate statement that the remaining 13 had been brought by the Indian Navy to Djibouti, where three of them were hospitalized due to “serious injuries.” They are in stable condition.

The DMW reported that the remaining 10 Filipinos were “safe and secure” in a hotel in Djibouti City, where they spoke to Philippine officials via video call.

Senior DMW officials also met with the families of the two Filipinos who died in the attack.

On board, there were also four Vietnamese, two Sri Lankans, an Indian, and a Nepali.

A Reuters report, citing the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said a total of three seafarers died.

The DMW vowed full support and assistance to the remaining Filipino crew, including their repatriation.

The attack on the Greek-owned, Barbados-flagged civilian bulk carrier True Confidence led to the deaths of at least three seafarers, according to earlier reports.

True Confidence was on fire and drifting around 50 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen’s port of Aden. The United States Central Command said the Houthi attack caused “significant damage” to the ship and severe burns to some of the crew onboard.

Citing the ship’s manning agency, the DMW said a missile struck the vessel’s fuel bunker section, causing an explosion and engulfing the ship in flames. The explosion’s magnitude forced the crew to evacuate immediately.

On Friday, March 8, the DMW and DFA said that the manning agency had yet to recover the remains of the Filipinos, which were still on the ship.

“We’re not sure about the final plan on retrieving the bodies, but it’s the responsibility of the manning agency. They have to find a way,” Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo Serbisyo.

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3 killed in first fatal Houthi attack on Red Sea shipping, CENTCOM says
High-risk area

The Houthis, a Yemeni militia group, have been attacking ships in the Red Sea since November 2023 in an apparent solidarity campaign with Palestinians during the war between Israel and Hamas.

It was also in November when the Houthis took hostage 17 Filipino seafarers in the Galaxy Leader cargo ship on the Red Sea.

In February, the International Bargaining Forum expanded the scope of “high risk areas” (HRAs) to the entire Gulf of Aden, a decision the DMW welcomed.

“The expansion of the scope of ‘high risk areas’ to include the Gulf of Aden serves as a necessary step towards providing stronger protection and promoting stricter security measures to safeguard Filipino seafarers and all seafarers working onboard ships navigating in such HRAs,” said DMW Officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac when the decision was released.

The expanded HRA ranges from the entire southern section of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, and stretches to the coast of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.

Filipino seafarers onboard ships that navigate in HRA waters have the right to refuse sailing, avail of company-funded repatriation, and compensation and bonuses. They are also entitled to double compensation in the event of death or disability.

“The Philippine government remains steadfast in the belief that through diplomacy and adherence to international law, the inter-related conflicts affecting the region at present will eventually be resolved, leading to the resumption of free and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of navigation for the world economy and the international community,” the DFA said.

The United States State Department said it would continue to hold the Houthis accountable for such attacks.

In a statement on Friday, March 8, the Japanese embassy in Manila expressed solidarity with Filipinos after the death of the two OFWs.

“Japan expresses heartfelt condolences to the families of two Filipino seafarers who lost their lives by a missile attack. We deeply respect their dedication in a foreign land,” the embassy said.

The embassy added that it will continue to work with the Philippines “toward the peaceful resolution of conflicts as well as lasting peace and stability all across the world.” – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.