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Filipino Seafarers Among Crew of Ship Seized by Iran Amid Escalating Tensions

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirmed on Sunday that four Filipino seafarers were among the crew aboard an Israeli-linked container ship seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries was intercepted on Saturday morning near the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway linking the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean, amid escalating regional tensions.

In response to the incident, the DMW assured the families of the affected seafarers of total government support and assistance, emphasizing coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the seafarers’ manning agency, ship manager, and operator to ensure their safety, well-being, and eventual release.

Iranian state media labeled the MSC Aries as “related to the Zionist regime (Israel),” highlighting the geopolitical complexities underlying the seizure. This event occurs against the backdrop of ongoing conflict dynamics, including missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels against ships in the Red Sea.

The Philippines, known as a significant source of seafarers for the global maritime sector, faces heightened concerns for the safety and security of its naval workforce, comprising 25% of the 1.5 million sea-based workers worldwide.

The incident involving the MSC Aries echoes a previous seizure of an Israel-linked cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader, by Houthi rebels in November, which resulted in the continued detention of 17 Filipino seafarers among the crew.

Amidst these developments, tensions have surged in the region, with Iran launching over 200 drones and missiles on Israel in an unprecedented attack. The assault coincides with ongoing conflict dynamics, including the six-month war in Gaza and retaliatory threats following an air strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria.

As the situation unfolds, the safety and well-being of Filipino seafarers remain a top priority for Philippine authorities, who continue to navigate the complex geopolitical landscape to secure their release and ensure their protection amidst escalating tensions in the region.