FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday ordered the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli to exert all efforts to secure the release of 20 Filipino seafarers detained by Libyan authorities on suspicion that they were transporting smuggled oil.
The Filipinos were taken into custody after a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat seized the Liberian-flagged tanker Levant off Zawia, west of Tripoli, on Sunday, for allegedly trying to smuggle more than six million liters of gasoline.
Cayetano said Libyan authorities have promised to provide as soon as possible the names of the detained seafarers whose photographs were published in Libyan newspapers.
“The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli has been directed to make sure they get urgent access to our detained seafarers, to extend all possible assistance and to secure their release and bring them home as soon as possible,” he added.
Libyan authorities have assured the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli that the Filipino seafarers who were taken into custody on Sunday are in good condition and are being treated well.
Cayetano said Chargè d’Affaires Mardomel Melicor met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday to request access to the detained Filipinos.
“Chargè d’Affaires Melicor was given the assurance by our Libyan friends that our seafarers are in good condition and are being treated well,” the DFA secretary added.
He said the detained seafarers would be made available to embassy officials once the custodial investigation being conducted by the Libyan Attorney General’s Office is completed.
Filipino seafarers make up at least one-fourth of the total number of seafarers worldwide, numbering more that 200,000 at any given time.
The Philippines consistently ranks as one of the top sources of seafarers, contributing the largest number of ratings and the second largest number of officers as of 2016.
BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO