Philippines readies delegation to Iran for talks on sailors kidnapped by Houthis

BenarNews staff
2023.11.30
Manila
Philippines readies delegation to Iran for talks on sailors kidnapped by Houthis This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows Houthi forces boarding the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. [Houthi Media Center via AP]
Photo: Benar

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Thursday he would dispatch a high-level delegation to Iran to help negotiate the release of 17 Filipino seamen who were aboard an Israeli-linked cargo ship seized by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

Citing the urgency of the situation, Marcos made a last-minute decision to cancel his trip to Dubai, where he was due to attend this year’s United Nations’ climate change summit, referred to as COP28.

“In light of important developments in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea, I have made the decision not to attend COP28 in Dubai tomorrow,” Marcos said in a statement.

“Today, I will be convening a meeting to facilitate the dispatch of a high-level delegation to Tehran, Iran, with the aim of providing necessary assistance to our seafarers.”

When the Philippine delegation would leave was unclear, and the foreign department did not answer reporters’ questions about the composition of the negotiating team.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis took control of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship on Nov.19 in the southern Red Sea, following a daring helicopter-borne attack. Some 25 crew members from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Mexico and Romania are reported to be on the ship.

The Philippine hostages were reportedly in good condition and would eventually be released, according to Ma. Teresita Daza, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Efforts are ongoing for this to happen as soon as possible,” Daza said.

The Houthis have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel in solidarity with Palestinians following Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel  on Oct. 7. 

The Galaxy Leader, a Bahamas-flagged car carrier, is chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen. It is owned by a firm registered under Isle of Man-headquartered Ray Car Carriers, which is a unit of Tel Aviv-incorporated Ray Shipping, according to LSEG data, according to reports.

After seizing control of the vessel, the Houthi gunmen raised Palestinian and Yemeni flags, according to reports. 

The Filipino hostages are among the country’s estimated 10 million-strong expatriate workforce, whose remittances have traditionally propped up the economy. The Philippines is one of the leading suppliers of manpower in the global shipping industry, which currently employs about 400,000 Filipinos.

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