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Pinoy Abroad

17 Filipinos among Houthi rebels' hostages in Red Sea —DFA

Seventeen Filipino seafarers were among the foreigners held hostage when Yemen's Houthis seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea earlier this week, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official confirmed on Wednesday.

"May 17 na Pilipino ayon sa manning agency... kasama iba't ibang dayuhan," said DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega in an interview on Unang Balita.

(There were 17 Filipinos according to the manning agency... together with other foreigners.)

Though it was not the first time that Filipino seafarers were held hostage overseas, De Vega said the government is paying extra attention to the recent incident as it is said to be connected to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas militants.

"Nababahala tayo dito. This is not the first time na may na-hostage na ganyan. Meron itong koneksiyon sa giyera ngayon sa Hamas at Israel dahil tinarget nila itong bapor na ito dahil Israeli-owned daw although Japanese 'yung company," De Vega said.

(We are alarmed. This is not the first time Filipino seafarers were held hostage. This is connected to the war between Hamas and Israel because the ship was targeted because it was allegedly Israeli-owned although the operator was a Japanese company.)

De Vega said the DFA is banking on the hostage-takers' word that no foreign hostages would be harmed.

A meeting among concerned government agencies is set on Wednesday to discuss the situation, De Vega said.

"Pag-uusapan namin kasama ng Malacañang itong situation," he said.

(Together with Malacañang, we will have a meeting to discuss this situation.) 

According to De Vega, the DFA is making diplomatic representations with governments. 

"[The] DFA is working with DMW (Department of Migrant Workers) which has primary jurisdiction over assistance cases involving seafarers. But there is an all of government approach and various government agencies are meeting and working together on this," he said.

The DFA official also said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has instructed them to do everything to ensure the safety of the Filipinos held hostage in the Red Sea. 

“Hindi namin pababayaan ang kanilang kapakanan. The safety of our kababayans abroad is a paramount policy and priority ng ating pamahalaan. Antabayanan ninyo at makakahanap tayo ng paraan na masagip sila,” he added. 

(We will ensure their welfare. The safety of our countrymen abroad is a paramount policy and priority of our government. Just wait and we will find a way to save them.) 

A Reuters report said the Houthis had described the cargo ship as Israeli. 

"We are treating the ship's crew in accordance with Islamic principles and values," a spokesperson for the group said, making no reference to the Israeli account.

The Houthis, an ally of Iran, have been launching long-range missile and drone salvoes at Israel in solidarity with the Hamas militants fighting in the Gaza Strip. —with Giselle Ombay/KBK, GMA Integrated News