Oct 172014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA846.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA846
2009-04-21 08:45
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO4871
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHPB
DE RUEHML #0846/01 1110845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 210845Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3875
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI//FPA//
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000846

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/EP/ EEB/IFD/OMA
STATE PASS EXIM, OPIC, AND USTR
STATE PASS USAID FOR AA/ANE, AA/EGAT, DAA/ANE
TREASURY FOR OASIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EWWT ECON RP SO XW XE
SUBJECT: Filipinos Held by Somali Pirates

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Filipinos account for about one-third of the
world’s one million commercial seafarers and for over 100 of the
approximately 300 seafarers currently held captive by Somali
pirates. Since the U.S. Navy action against pirates, the Philippine
government has come under increasing pressure to act to free the
captives. It has responded with precautionary guidelines for ships
and with strong support to enforcing related UN Security Council
resolutions. The Philippines has also expressed interest in
liaising with the U.S.-led anti-piracy effort. On April 21, Somali
pirates released 23 Filipinos after a negotiating team composed of
company officials and foreign consultants met the pirates’ demands.
End Summary.

The Importance of Overseas Filipino Workers
——————————————-

¶2. (U) The welfare of “Overseas Filipino Workers,” including
seafarers, is important to the Philippine government and public.
According to the Philippine central bank, more than 350,000 Filipino
seafarers remitted over $3 billion back to the Philippines in 2008.
In the first two months of this year, they remitted almost $500
million. Altogether, Overseas Filipino Workers provide over 10% of
Philippine GDP, for which they are praised as national heroes. The
Philippine government facilitates the overseas deployment of its
nationals and monitors their welfare. In 2004, in order to protect
a single Overseas Filipino Worker who was being held hostage, the
Philippines banned all Filipinos from working in Iraq. Since then,
Philippine passports have been stamped “not valid for travel to
Iraq” and the ban has been fairly effectively implemented.

Naval Envy
———-

¶3. (U) According to Philippine officials, since 2006 at least 227
Filipino sailors on non-Filipino vessels have been taken hostage by
pirates in waters off the Somali coast. Most of these hostages have
been released after the payment of ransom by the shipping lines.
However, over 100 Filipino merchant sailors are still being held by
pirates on seven vessels. Some have been held for months and have
no clear prospect of release. The limited ability of the Philippine
government to help these hostages was highlighted in contrast to
recent U.S. Navy actions to assist U.S. sailors attacked by Somali
pirates. On April 19, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines
called on the government to spare no effort to safely recover all of
the hostages without further delay. This call for government action
has been echoed by Filipino merchant sailors and the families of the
hostages, and has resonated in local media.

¶4. (U) The Philippine government responded by issuing guidelines to
its manning agencies (which supply seafarers) and shipping lines
advising ships carrying Filipino seafarers to remain at least 300
kilometers offshore, travel in convoys, and follow the other
precautions recommended by the International Maritime Organization.
The Philippine government also stated it will give its full support
to enforcing related UN Security Council Resolutions.

Filipino Sailors on Every Vessel
——————————–

¶5. (U) In addition, Philippine government officials have publicly
floated the idea of banning Filipino sailors from merchant ships
plying the Gulf of Aden. The head of one seafarers union ridiculed
such a ban as impossible to implement, since most merchant marine
vessels have Filipino sailors on board and no ship owner could
disembark its Filipino crew before the ship enters the Gulf of Aden,
and then replace them once past Somali waters. He added that such a
ban could prevent shipping lines from legally hiring Filipinos for
vessels on major shipping routes between Europe and East Asia, which
not only would cause additional expenses for global shipping, but
would also cost the jobs of many thousands of Filipinos seafarers.

¶6. (U) We have confirmed April 21 wire reports that Somali pirates
released 23 Filipino seafarers after a negotiating team composed of
company officials and foreign consultants was able to meet the
pirates’ demands. However, the company officials we spoke with
refused to confirm that they paid a ransom. We have also confirmed
that the Philippines is interested in liaising with the U.S.-led
anti-piracy effort and is now exploring its options.

Comment

MANILA 00000846 002 OF 002

——-

¶7. (SBU) It is not yet clear whether the Philippine government will
attempt to ban its merchant sailors from ships plying the waters off
Somalia. However, it is clear that pressure on the government is
mounting to take action to address the festering problems of its
nationals being held hostage by pirates. Philippine officials have
told us that interagency discussions on seafarers in the Gulf of
Aden are underway.

Kenney

   

 

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