Marcos: Safety of Filipino hostages is priority

The Philippine government is exhausting all measures to bring home safely the 17 Filipino seafarers who were held hostage by Yemeni rebel group Houthi after it seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea.

Thus said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday evening as he expressed regret for skipping a gathering of the Filipino community in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, following the cancellation of his trip for COP28. 

In a video message, Marcos told the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that he would no longer attend the international conference due to the hostage situation. 

“Alam naman ninyo may mga bagay na kailangan agad na asikasuhin. Isa na dun ‘yung ating mga kababayan, mga kapwa Pilipino natin na na-hostage, labimpito sila na na-hostage at ginagawa natin lahat ng paraan upang sila ay maiuwi na,” the President said. 

(We know that there are some things we need to take care of including the condition of the 17 Filipinos who were held hostage. We are exhausting all measures to bring them home safely.)

“At sa – kaya’t binubuo natin ang isang delegasyon para pumunta sa kanila at makipag-usap dun sa mga may hawak sa kanila para makauwi na sila. Kaya’t, siguro naman maunawaan ninyo, na inuna muna natin ‘yan dahil kailangan nating tiyakin ang syempre ang seguridad ng ating mga kababayan,” he said. 

(We created a delegation that will coordinate for their release from the rebel group. I hope you will understand. We prioritized this because we need to ensure their safety.)

Earlier, Marcos said he canceled his flight to UAE for the COP28, citing the “important developments” in the hostage situation. 

He said he has entrusted Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to lead the Philippine delegation to COP28 on his behalf.

“Patuloy naman ang aming ginagawa upang ang ating mga kababayan ay maging maganda naman ang kanilang sitwasyon at sa lalong madaling panahon ay sana makauwi na sila,” he added. 

(We are doing our best to ensure their fast and safe release.)

The President, meanwhile, thanked the OFWs for their contributions to the Philippine economy and promised to meet with them on his next trip. 

The Houthis, an ally of Iran, have been launching long-range missile and drone salvoes toward Israel in solidarity with the Hamas militants fighting in the Gaza Strip. 

Israel said the Houthis had seized a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, describing the incident as an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.

The Houthis said they had seized a ship in that area but described it as Israeli. 

COP28

Meanwhile, the President underscored the importance of the Philippines’ participation in the COP28.

“As a country frequented by natural disasters, we have seen its negative effects greatly affecting our lives…It is for this reason that we want the whole world to hear the Filipinos’ voice,” Marcos Jr. said in a speech delivered by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr. 

“We would want to be part of a global climate action that would positively affect the lives not just of Filipinos but also those from the rest of the whole world,” he said. 

Marcos on Wednesday said the Philippines should take the lead when it comes to the global actions of vulnerable countries on mitigating climate change and its effects. —LDF, GMA Integrated News

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