THE five Filipino seamen freed by Somali pirates after nearly five years of captivity are now under the custody of the Philippine government and will fly home on October 28, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Charles Jose, spokesperson and assistant secretary of the DFA, said the Filipinos were welcomed by Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Jesus Yabes, together with Philippine Embassy in Nairobi Chargé d’ Affaires Uriel Norman Garibay and other government officials, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon arriving in Nairobi on Monday.
“Our countrymen are already in safe condition. They will undergo medical test and psychological debriefing before they will be sent to the Philippines,” Jose told reporters.
The official said the Philippines is cooperating with the international community to curb piracy.
“The problem of piracy is an international issue and many countries and international organizations are coordinating to combat this. In fact, the one responsible for the release of the hostages was an organization,” Jose said.
The US-based Oceans Beyond Piracy, a privately funded and independent non-profit organization, spearheaded the negotiation for the release of the hostages. However, because of security issues and the multi-national component of the case, it took a long time for the case to be resolved.
Arnel Balbero, Elmer Balbero, Antonio Libres, Jr., Edwas Tininggal, Jr. and Ferdinand Dalit were among the 29-man crew of the Omani-flagged FV Naham 3 that was hijacked on March 26, 2012 while traversing the Indian Ocean some 65 nautical miles south of Seychelles.
Other than the five Filipinos, the crew was made up of Cambodian, Chinese, Indonesian, Taiwanese and Vietnamese seafarers. Of the 29, one died during the hijacking while two others succumbed to illnesses while in captivity.