Fate of 2 missing RP crewmen of "M/V Spirit" still not known — DFA

May 27, 2009 1:22 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, May 27 — The fate of two seafarers who were among the 16 Filipino crew members of the oil cargo vessel “M/V Spirit,” hijacked by Nigerian militants in the troubled Niger Delta on May 13, is still unknown, it was disclosed on Wednesday by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

But DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said, “We are exerting all efforts to confirm the whereabouts and condition of the two seafarers,” whose identities are not being revealed.

“We have met and are coordinating with their families in Manila” and with the Nigerian Foreign Ministry and the Nigerian State Security Services, Conejos said.

Eight of the 14 crew members who have been rescued are due to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) tonight, escorted by Geranfel T. Abrillo of the Philippine Embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The second group of six is scheduled to return home on Thursday, May 28.

Both groups, some of them still recovering from injuries received during rescue operations conducted by Nigerian security forces, will be met by their families and Conejos.

Those injured have received emergency treatment in Africa and they will continue to have medical attention in Manila, the DFA said.

When the rescue operations were first made known, and as foreign media reported that a man with a Filipino sounding name was among the casualties, DFA claimed to be on top of the situation and announced only that there were Filipinos injured.

Conejos took the not-so-usual step of going to Nigeria to coordinate the repatriation.

As this developed, five Filipino fishermen, rescued from the South China Sea by a passing Chinese ship on May 20, were turned over to the custody of the Beijing embassy on May 26.

Arrangements for their repatriation to their hometown in Infanta, Pangasinan is underway. Four of their companions are still missing, it was reported.

They had reportedly been drifting in the high seas with only their life rafts for almost two weeks when spotted by a passing Chinese ship, "Hebei Shenyong."

The five fishermen were first brought to the Rizhao port in China’s Shandong province, close to Beijing.

They were identified as Wilson Etac, Israel Dumas, David Querubin, Ariel Delos Angeles, and Jimmy Bajar.

In a statement to the press, the embassy said: “We would like to thank the crew members of the Chinese shipping vessel Hebei Shenyong (Hebei Brave) for their act of courage in rescuing our countrymen. This is an example of how neighbors extend a helping hand to each other in time of need.”

The fishermen said they left Infanta on May 1 to fish near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal). Days later, the engine of their boat, "Four Sisters," conked out, forcing them to tow it towards the shoal for repair. But it did not work, so they decided to return to Pangasinan using their four service boats or life rafts.

On their way, typhoon “Emong” overtook them in the South China Sea, destroying their service boats. (PNA)

scs/GJB

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