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18 Filipino seafarers in

Iranian custody

Department of Foreign AffairsThe Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Iranian Embassy in Manila has promised to extend assistance to the Philippines in its request for the release of 18 Filipinos on board an oil tanker that Iran seized in the Gulf of Oman this week, Saturday, January 13, 2024.

Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker St Nikolas in the Gulf of Oman while the ship was in transit between the Iraqi port of Basra and Turkey.

“We’re in touch with the Iranian government. The Iranian ambassador has promised assistance, so there’s the confirmation that it (the ship) was captured. So, we’re just ascertaining the condition of our 18 seafarers,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega said in an interview with ABS-CBN.

De Vega said the DFA is still waiting for an official report from its embassy in Iran and cannot yet confirm the condition of the Filipino seafarers.

“We can say that, so far, there is no indication that they are being harmed or mistreated. Wala (none),” he said. “The Iranian ambassador assured that they will work on it so that they will be released as soon as possible.”

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), is in touch with the families of the 18 seafarers to extend necessary assistance.

Ang DMW ay nakafocus sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa pamilya ng ating mga kababayan. Sa ngayon naman maganda naman ang update dito. Nasa maganda silang kalagayan (The DMW is focused on coordinating with their families. So far, the update on this is encouraging. They are in a good condition),” DMW Undersecretary Patricia Yvonne Caunan said.

“Patuloy ang DMW na makipag-ugnayan sa DFA para i-monitor ang kanilang situwasyon (The DMW will continue to coordinate with the DFA to monitor the seafarers’ situation).”

The oil tanker, previously named Suez Rajan, had been the subject of attention in 2023 when the more than 980,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil it was carrying were confiscated by the United States in a sanction enforcement operation.

Another 17 Filipino crew members of Galaxy Leader cargo ship are still being held by the Houthi rebels following the vessel’s seizure in the Red Sea last November.