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President Marcos vows to bring home 17 hostages

DUBAI — The Philippine government will exhaust all remedies available to bring home safely the 17 Filipino seafarers held hostage by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea, President Marcos said yesterday, as authorities bared plans to expand the list of high-risk areas in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

“We’re doing everything possible to bring them home,” Marcos said in his video message from Manila to the Filipino community at the Dubai World Trade Center Thursday night.

Marcos said he opted to cancel his participation in the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP28 here to personally address “important developments” in the case of the 17 Filipino seafarers.

According to Marcos, a high-level delegation would be dispatched to Tehran, Iran to extend assistance to the Filipino seafarers.

“That’s why we formed a delegation to go to them (Iran) and talk to those who are holding them so that they can go home. So, perhaps you understand, that we put that first because we have to ensure of course the security of our countrymen,” the Chief Executive told Filipinos based in the United Arab Emirates.

In an interview with the media here on Thursday, Department of Migrant Workers officer-in-charge Hans Leo Cacdac said they are looking at discussing the expansion of the high-risk areas in the Red Sea at the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) in response to the kidnapping of the Filipinos.

“What we’ve done is we have reached out to the social partner, meaning the ship owners and employers’ group, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) representatives back home, we wish to discuss the matter on the possibility of looking into the expansion of high risk areas, red zones in the Red Sea,” Cacdac said.

“There were already high risk areas off the coast of Yemen but we just encouraged our social partners, including ourselves, to sit down and discuss the matter of expansion of high risk zones. Because what happened with the Galaxy Leader was the (incident happened) outside the high-risk area zone,” he added.

Seafarers are advised in advance if their vessel’s route or destination