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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Iran ready to free 4 seafarers—DFA

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The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said the four Filipino seafarers, who were among the crew on board MSC Aries seized by Iran over the weekend, will be released very soon, citing Iranian authorities.

“We are talking with the embassy there. And today, the Iranian ambassador and the Foreign Affairs Secretary will talk. Secretary [Enrique] Manalo just returned yesterday,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said in a television interview.

“What the Iranian Embassy told us so far, and I will quote, the crew members will be released very soon. All of them, not just the four Filipinos. Let’s see if it will come true and we will press for it,” de Vega added.

According to De Vega, the four Filipinos are in good condition and they were given a chance to call their families in the Philippines.

“They are fed, they are healthy,” the DFA official said.

He added that being allowed to talk to their families means they are not treated as prisoners or hostages.

On Sunday, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed that four Filipino seafarers were among the crew of MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged ship that was seized by Iran.

The DMW issued the statement a day after an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. chopper boarded the MSC Aries and took it into Iranian waters, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported.

As a response, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday declared that it is ready to offer assistance to the possible repatriation of Filipinos amid ongoing tensions between Israel and Iran.

DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega stressed that, so far, no Filipinos have expressed interest to return to the Philippines after Israel and Iran engaged in armed confrontation recently.

“According to Philippine ambassador in Tel Aviv Jun Laylo, no Filipino has thus far expressed intention of going home. They trust the Israeli defense,” De Vega said.

“In Iran, there are 2,000 Filipinos there — some married to Iranians, some professionals. The government is ready to take them home if they want to go home. But most of them have become Iranian citizens already,” he added.

The Philippines earlier expressed concern over the conflict between Israel and Iran, and urged parties to avoid escalating the tensions by working towards a peaceful resolution, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“The Philippines has long advocated for all states to adhere to the principles of international law and to the peaceful settlement of disputes,” it stressed.

Iran launched attacks against Israel over the weekend using drones and missiles in retaliation for a supposed Israeli air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria on April 1.

Israel’s alleged attack in Damascus reportedly killed seven Iranian military advisers, including three senior commanders.

Reports showed that the Iranian attack brought about modest damage in Israel as most of the missiles and drones were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system with the help of US, Britain, France, and Jordan.

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