Source: DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT By Atty Josephus Jimenez
Piracy is now widely recognized as the top global threat to the world’s maritime industry. Hundreds, nay thousands of seafarers coming from various countries all over the world have been captured, detained and traumatized by pirates’ attacks in the Gulf of Aden and other sea routes.
The latest victim of the pirates in Somalia is a Cebuano ship captain, Captain Mario C. Minoria, son of the late journalist, lawyer, and former labor arbiter, Vito Jimenez-Minoria. This writer knows the family too well as to feel sad for the wife, children, mother and siblings. Vito used to be under me as labor arbitration associate when I was assigned as labor arbiter in Cebu in the late 70s. And Captain Mario always visits me in Manila, together with his brother Gus who is a DOLE conciliator.
There are 21 other Filipino crewmembers who were with Captain Mario when their ocean-going vessel, M/V Free Goddess was hijacked and held captive by pirates on 07 February 2012. That vessel is owned by a Greek company called Free Bulkers and registered in Liberia, thus, it was flying a Liberian flag when it was taken over by the pirates and the 22 all-Filipino crew, including the master of the vessel, Captain Minoria, were held captives by the Somalian pirates. They were then transporting cable wires from Greece and were on their way to Singapore. More than a month has passed and there is no positive indication yet of a successful rescue operation.
It is widely known that, as of today, the Filipinos command the biggest number of seafarers, estimated to reach about 400,000 marine officers and ratings, among the 1.2 million seamen from all over the world. They are the highest paid among our 12 million OFWs, remitting no less than about US$ 7 billion, or more than a third of the total OFW remittances of US$ 22 billion in 2011 alone. Captain Minoria receives US$ 7,000 a month, excluding other allowances, bonuses and perks as ship captain. He is supporting his wife and four grown-up children, who are now based in New York, USA. In fairness to his employer, the Evic Manning firm, he continues to be paid his salary even while he is under detention by the pirates.
As standard operating procedure, the Greek ship owners are currently negotiating with the pirates for the immediate release of the captives. Our government, through the DFA, DOLE, and OWWA, are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the safety, security, health, and well-being of the Filipino seafarers are not compromised. Our men and women in the nearby embassies had been instructed to explore all avenues to secure the lives of our compatriots, as well to keep the families informed of all relevant developments. Piracy is a menace that we all combat and we link with all other countries and international organizations to protect our nationals anywhere and anytime.
This unfortunate event underscores the hazards of being a seaman, especially in international waters that are notorious for the operations of pirates and other transnational lawless elements. Our seafarers, as well as all seamen from all other countries, do face this endemic risk every day of their life at sea. In all the maritime training centers, especially in the National Maritime Polytechnic, marine officers and ratings are being taught how to cope with this menace, how to survive in the hands of pirates, and also, on how to negotiate and communicate with lawless elements at sea.
Meanwhile, we just have to pray and hope for the best. To be a marine officer and sailor could be having the most hazardous job, especially in the light of the latest upsurge of piracy in the global scale. The families of the victims just have to trust God and our government that everything will turn out well, give all the tremendous efforts to make sure that no untoward thing shall befall on Captain Minoria and his 21 crew, as well as all other Filipino victims anywhere in the world. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on that.