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MANILA, Philippines – At least 17 Filipino seafarers have been taken hostage by Yemen’s Houthi rebels aboard their vessel in the Red Sea, Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo de Vega confirmed on Wednesday, November 22.
The Iran-backed Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader cargo ship on Sunday, November 19. While the vessel is Israel-owned, it is operated by a Japanese company, De Vega said.
“May 17 na Pilipino, ayon sa manning agency, kasama iba’t ibang mga dayuhan. So, nababahala tayo dito. This is not the first time na may na-hostage…. Pero ito ‘yung una naming maalala dahil mayroon ‘tong koneksiyon sa giyera ngayon sa Hamas at Israel,” said De Vega in an episode of GMA’s Unang Balita.
(There are 17 Filipinos, according to the manning agency, along with other foreigners. So we are worried about this. This is not the first time Filipinos were hostaged. But this is the first notable one because this has a connection to the war between Hamas and Israel.)
The Houthis have been launching drones and long-range missiles at Israeli targets in solidarity with Hamas.
De Vega said the Department of Foreign Affairs received information that the hostage-takers had no plans to harm the foreign hostages. Still, he said the DFA was working with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the Maritime Industry Authority, and Malacañang to handle the situation.
“There is an all-of-government approach and various government agencies are meeting and working together on this. We assure the public that everything is being done to get our seafarers back safely,” said De Vega.
On Wednesday afternoon, the DMW said it was “deeply concerned” about the incident and has communicated with all the seafarers’ families, assuring them of support.
The department said it would continue to provide information about developments as they unfold.
“Let us keep praying for the safety and well-being of our Filipino seafarers,” the DMW said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also commented on the incident on Wednesday evening, noting in a Facebook post that the safety of the 17 Filipino seafarers is of “utmost concern.”
Marcos said that the DFA was in coordination with counterparts in Iran, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
“Our seafarers are not alone. The government is doing everything in our power to bring them safely home,” said Marcos.
Iran has denied involvement in the seizure of the ship, which was said to have been taken to the Houthi-controlled southern Yemen port of Hodeidah. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com