DFA: Search launched for Filipinos missing in Beirut blast

Marje Pelayo   •   August 5, 2020   •   1061

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday (August 5) reported a total of 12 Filipinos still missing after the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon.

DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola confirmed in a press briefing that 11 of the 12 missing Filipinos are seafarers who jumped off their ship that was docked some 400 meters away from the blast site.

Two of their colleagues managed to go to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut after the incident.

Meanwhile, the other one missing is a household worker.

Arriola said Philippine representatives are now coordinating with the government of Lebanon for the search and rescue.

“We are coordinating with the Lebanese government. We have informed them of the reports of our seafarers, iyong mga nakaligtas (those who survived). Ginagawa natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para mahanap po sila (We are doing the best we could to find them),” she said.

The official said more Filipinos may have been affected by the incident.

She said majority of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Lebanon reside and work in Beirut and many other vessels that might have Filipinos on board were docked at the port when the explosion happened.

“I’m sure hindi lang sila doon ang nawawala o hinahanap dahil marami din nakadaong duon sa port na iba ibang mga barko (I’m sure they are not the only ones missing or being accounted for because there are other vessels also docked at the port).

As you know, karamihan talaga ng mga barko maraming Pilipino na seafarers (As you know, most shipping vessels employ a number of Filipino seafarers),” she explained.

The official also confirmed that based on the latest update from the Embassy, two Filipino household workers were among the fatalities while eight other household workers were among the injured.

Lebanese authorities are now investigating the cause of the explosion as initial reports cited at least 78 people died and some 3,000 others were injured in the powerful explosion.

Authorities fear many more people are buried beneath rubbles as the entire city of Beirut suffered massive damage to properties.

Arriola assured that the DFA will extend all the necessary assistance to the Filipinos affected in the city.

The agency also vowed to bring home the remains of those who were killed in the blast this weekend if the Lebanese government will permit it.

The Philippine Embassy, which is some 20 minutes drive away from the blast site, is intact and Embassy officials and staff are safe, Arriola said.

On the Explosion in Beirut, Lebanon #Advisory No. 1

Posted by Philippine Embassy in Lebanon on Tuesday, 4 August 2020

PCG boosts recruitment to strengthen PH maritime security

Marje Pelayo   •   September 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is continuously recruiting to achieve the ideal number of 72,000 personnel in order to fully execute its mandate of protecting the country’s 36,000 kilometer long coastline.

The PCG said there have been sightings of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

PCG Commandant VADM Leopoldo Laroya said tensions between PCG personnel and Chinese mariners do occur at times.

“Mayroon pakonti-konti na nilalapitan ng [Philippine] Coast Guard. We also maintain a constant patrol in the area and when challenged, they sometimes challenge our challenge but in the end they leave,” he said.

The PCG was able to increase its force from 7,000 personnel in 2016 to 20,600 coast guards this year.

In 2021 alone, the PCG was able to hire around 4,000 new recruits.

In the next five years, the agency is confident of having around 36,000 personnel.

Aside from border security, the PCG is also focused on assisting all returning overseas Filipinos.

“Marami kaming tao na nagkaka-COVID pero meron din namang kapalit. And all our people are being taken care of,” Laroya assured.

As for seafarers, the Maritime Industry Authority (MIA) through the Commission on Higher Eduction (CHED) is requesting the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to allow face-to-face classes for maritime students.

The agency said the pandemic has prevented the industry from producing new seafarer-graduates for two years in a row.

“Hanggang ngayon hindi allowed yung ODT aboardship. So habang wala pang guidance to allow it, then we will continue not to graduate our Filipino seafarers,” explained MIA Administrator VADM Robert Empedrad.

The official said it is still to the advantage of the Philippines to have sufficient number of seafarers for its local maritime operations. MNP (with Rey Pelayo)

POEA assures repatriation, assistance to 17 Pinoy seafarers stranded in China

Marje Pelayo   •   June 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Friday (June 25) assured the public that the 17 Filipino seafarers who got stranded in China will be repatriated at the soonest possible time.

This was announced by POEA administrator Bernard Olalia during the Laging Handa press briefing, referring to the 17 Filipino crew members of Greek-flagged bulk carrier MV Angelic Power who have been at sea for 17 months and counting.

The vessel has been grounded following a conflict between the vessel’s owner Angeliki Dynamic Investment Corp. and the cargo receiver Guangzhou South China Coal Trade Center Co.

“Ang kanilang manning agency, ang Magsaysay Manning Agency, ay nakipag-ugnayan na sa ating ahensya. Binigyan po natin sila ng instruction na agarang tumulong doon sa 17 seafarers na natengga na sila doon,” Olalia said.

“Napakatagal na nila doon. Na-deploy po sila last year bago ang pandemic. May mga restrictions lamang po sa bansang China kaya nakipag-ugnayan din tayo sa Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) upang ayusin ang kanilang documentation at i-schedule po ang kanilang flight para makabalik sa Pilipinas,” he noted.

The official added that the seafarers’ manning agency has assured the POEA that the 17 stranded Filipino seafarers will be provided compensation pending their repatriation.

“Inatasan na rin natin ang manning agency involved na ibigay ang mga sustento, ang mga food and sustenance nila upang hindi sila magutom sa kanilang barko,” Olalia assured.

“Ibibigay ang kanilang monthly salary kahit tapos na ang kanilang employment period. Ang kanilang pamilya ay tatanggap po ng allotment. Ipapadala po ng manning agency ang sweldo ng ating mga seafarers sa kani-kanilang pamilya hangga’t hindi pa po sila nakakabalik dito,” he added.

The official noted that from 15,000 seafarers deployed in January this year, the number increased to 30,000 in May which is closer to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic level of at least 40,000 a year.

PCG aids 34 seafarers after fire incident in fishing vessel’s engine room

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 29, 2021

CEBU, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assisted 34 seafarers who abandoned their fishing vessel after an engine fire.

A fire incident broke out inside the engine room of Korean fishing vessel, FV No. 96 Oyang on Tuesday (January 26). The vessel was at the vicinity waters off Panganiban, Catanduanes.

The crew, composed of 22 Indonesians, 10 Koreans, and two Filipinos ‘abandoned ship’ following the captain’s orders. Rescue operations were immediately conducted.

The PCG assisting the seafarers arrived at the Port of Cebu on Wednesday (January 27) and were transported into a quarantine facility after taking swab tests.

The survivors are being monitored by their ship company’s representative, in coordination with IATF – Region VII and South Korea Consulate based in Cebu City. AAC

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