Senator Imee Marcos pressed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Migrant Workers for a long-term strategy to negotiate the release of abducted Filipino seafarers as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict expands beyond the Gaza Strip.
Filipino seafarers were again among the hostages in Sunday’s hijacking incident in the Middle East, just a week after Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the lives of Filipino seafarers now face higher risks as Israel’s attacks in Gaza could draw in more militant groups seeking to avenge the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.
“There’s no end in sight to this conflict and more Filipino seafarers could become collateral damage. The ongoing truce to release hostages on both sides is temporary,” the senator explained.
She also warned that the pro-Palestinian Houthi rebels have threatened to target more ships with links to Israel.
Filipino seafarers comprise 25% of those employed in the global maritime industry, with almost half a millon serving on cargo and cruise ships.
The sea hijackings took place in the Red Sea and the adjoining Gulf of Aden – a crucial shipping route connecting Europe with the Middle East and Asia.
Marcos also urged the DFA to take great care in its diplomatic positions, especially as a member of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The Philippines’ abstention from a UNGA resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in Israel’s attacks in Gaza “has not gone unnoticed” among Arab nations and could affect future negotiations on the release of Filipino hostages, she said.
“Our alliance with the United States and its foreign policies in the ongoing conflict complicate our own. But Filipino interests come first and must be upheld,” the senator emphasized.