By Pia Lee-Brago
MANILA – The Philippines has urged ship owners to be more open to sharing information on the status of seafarers held hostage by pirates and to stop the policy of abandoning hijacked vessels with their crew still on board.
Speaking at the 3rd High Level Public-Private Counter-Piracy Conference held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said maritime piracy is a serious issue for the Philippines ‚Äì the world‚Äôs largest supplier of seafarers since 1987 and a flag-state registry for ocean-going vessels.
“Since 2006, about 826 Filipinos had been held for ransom by Somali pirates. But with the decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia, only five Filipino seafarers are currently held in captivity,” he said.
“We can only be as effective in our ability to coordinate with ship owners. We therefore urge ship owners to be more open to sharing information on the status of captive seafarers,” Del Rosario said.
A little information, he said, will go a long way in helping families of victims maintain their resolve and in keeping their hopes alive.
‚ÄúWe have yet to address cases wherein a ship owner abandons the ship, leaving its crew to an uncertain fate. We call on ship owners to refrain from resorting to this course of action, as this also constitutes the abandonment of lives as it is an abandonment of property,” he stressed.
Del Rosario said the Philippines is the vessel-manning capital of the world, supplying one-fourth of the total seafarers, so that there is high probability a Filipino seafarer is victimized by pirates.
The conference held from Sept. 11 to 12 provided a forum to exchange views on this important issue that is besetting the global maritime industry.
There are 118 Philippine-registered ocean-going ships, 90 percent of which pass through the high-risk area near the Somali coast.
Del Rosario said the Philippines, as a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council, had implemented a variety of best practices in order to mitigate the impact of piracy that had victimized seafarers.
The Philippine government has authorized Philippine-flagged ships to hire armed personnel to protect the vessels from pirates.