13 Filipinos in Nigeria oil theft freed

February 26, 2009

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 17:19:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines — Less than a week after they were convicted of stealing 12,500 tons of crude oil from the Niger Delta, 13 Filipino seafarers were released Thursday afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Citing a report from the Office of the Vice President, DFA acting spokesman Ed Malay said the 13 were released after the owner of the M/T Akuada, Corinthian City, paid the fine of $6,800 for each seaman.

Last Friday, February 20, a Nigerian court sentenced the Filipinos to five years imprisonment or the fine after they were caught on November 13, 2008 stealing or illegally transporting oil, commonly known as oil bunkering.

Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest oil producers, exporting some two million barrels of oil per day, loses an estimated 100,000 barrels of liters of crude or refined petroleum products every day to organized gangs that tap pipelines and siphon off tons of oil.

Citing various kidnapping incidents, the Philippine government has a standing work ban in Nigeria.


We’ll pay fine for OFWs in Nigeria theft

February 26, 2009

We’ll pay fine for OFWs in Nigeria theft

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 16:50:00 02/25/2009

Filed Under: Overseas Employment, Crime and Law and Justice

MANILA, Philippines—The ship owner and the crewing firm of the 13
Filipino seamen sentenced in Nigeria to five years in prison or a fine
of $84,500 promised to pay the penalty so they could be freed and
repatriated back to the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs
said Wednesday.

On February 20, a Nigerian court found the 13 Filipino seamen of M/T
Akuada guilty of stealing 12,500 tons of crude oil from the Niger
Delta. The convicted Filipinos, who were arrested with nine other
Filipino seamen on November 14, 2008, entered a guilty plea.

“The DFA received an assurance from the shipping principal, Corinthina
Maritime SA Greece and its sister coman Kathrina Greece Crewing based
in Athens, that they would pay the fine,” said acting DFA spokesman Ed

Asked about the time frame, he said the ship owner and the crewing
company did not specify when the fine would be paid.

At the same time, the two companies also promised that they would
honor the seamen’s contract and their other obligations to the
Filipino seamen, Malaya said.

The DFA official also said the two companies would pay for the
seamen’s air fare back to the country.

Malaya, a lawyer, noted that the seamen may have pleaded guilty to
expedite the case and their eventual return to the Philippines.

Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest oil producers, exporting some two
million barrels of oil per day, loses an estimated 100,000 barrels of
liters of crude or refined petroleum products every day to organized
gangs that tap pipelines and siphon off tons of oil.

Citing various kidnapping incidents, the Philippine government has a
standing work ban in Nigeria.

Manning agency told to hasten payment of fine for 13 jailed OFWs in Nigeria

February 25, 2009

02/25/2009 | 04:19 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Noli de Castro on Tuesday said that he has told a local manning agency to hasten payment of the fine imposed on 13 jailed Filipino seamen in Nigeria so that they can finally be released.

De Castro said he has ordered Sea Gem Maritime International Inc. to cooperate with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) regarding the immediate payment of the fine by the Corinthian City, their foreign principal, and the eventual repatriation of the jailed seafarers.

Reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the Nigerian court is asking for a fine of $6,500 or more than P310,000 for each of the imprisoned OFWs — a total of $84,500 or more than P4 million — for the entire group who were charged for allegedly stealing oil.

Stealing oil tapped illegally from well heads or pipelines is said to be a lucrative practice in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest petroleum producer.

The DFA said that the seafarers are going to languish in jail for five years unless the fines set by the Nigerian court are paid.

In a statement on Tuesday, De Castro expressed disappointment over the recruitment firm because the conviction of the 13 Filipino seamen in Nigeria is already the second incident that involved the agency.

Earlier, nine Filipino seamen contracted by Sea Gem were stranded in Nigeria after they escaped from armed pirates. Six of them were immediately repatriated, while the other three are expected to return to the Philippines soon.

“[Sea Gem] is presently facing several complaints and it must cooperate with the investigation of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). And if found liable, proper sanctions should be imposed,” said De Castro, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s adviser for OFW affairs.
GMANews.TV tried contacting Sea Gem Maritime International Inc. but it was not available for comment.

Records from the POEA showed that the agency is currently on preventive suspension. – GMANews.TV

Aside from Iraq, team to study lifting of deployment ban in Lebanon, Nigeria

February 23, 2009

DFA Sec. Alberto Romulo pays Lebanon President Bashar Al Assad02/06/2009 | 04:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The assessment team which will look into the possibility of lifting the deployment ban to Iraq will also study the possible resumption of the deployment of Filipino workers to Lebanon and Nigeria.

Vice President Noli De Castro – who is also the concurrent presidential adviser on OFWs – said the security of Filipino workers who will be deployed to these countries will be the main consideration for the assessment team led by special envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu.

The team will leave for Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria next week.

“We seek to lift the deployment bans on these countries in order to widen our overseas employment market in the light of the global economic crisis besetting us… But of course, the safety and welfare of our OFWs far outweigh the economic effects. That’s why the decision of lifting the ban will be exhaustively and carefully studied,” De Castro said.

The government has decided to review its deployment policy in the three countries after receiving reports that security situation there have normalized, De Castro said.

But he said Manila will maintain its deployment ban in Jordan and Afghanistan as these countries are still considered “high-risk zone” for Filipino workers.

Manila imposed a ban on Iraq following the kidnapping of two Filipino truck drivers in 2004 and 2005.

Before the ban, around 6,000 Filipinos are working in Iraq and confined inside US military camps due to the volatile security condition in the country. But the figure, according to Iraq’s embassy in Manila, has swelled to 15,000, most of them working for foreign companies in Iraq’s northern region.

There is no way to monitor the exit and entry of Filipino workers in Iraq after the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad was temporarily relocated to Amman, Jordan in January 2005 because of the worsening security condition in the Middle East state.

The government likewise imposed a ban on Lebanon in 2006 after violence erupted between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli forces. Around 6,000 of them have been repatriated to the Philippines during the war, while the rest opted to stay for fear of losing their jobs. Manila also stopped the deployment of workers to Nigeria following a spate of kidnappings involving Filipino workers. – GMANews.TV

6 Pinoys stranded in Nigeria back in Manila Thursday

February 23, 2009

6 Pinoys stranded in Nigeria back in Manila Thursday
02/18/2009 | 03:40 PM
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MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Noli De Castro on Wednesday said six of the nine Filipino seafarers reportedly stranded in Lagos, Nigeria, will arrive in Manila Thursday.

The announcement came after De Castro – who is also adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers – had ordered the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the local manning agency that contracted the seamen to bring home the group immediately.

The Filipinos were part of the 18-man crew of M/T Meredith, and who were said to have escaped from an attack by armed pirates on January 21 at Bonny Terminal in Nigeria.

“The families of the seafarers informed our office that their loved ones have already been transferred from a supply boat (EVA 2) to a tugboat (Gallant) and now on their way to Lomé Port in Ghana, West Africa. They reported that 3 of them were not able to join the group that will be repatriated as they were the ones left to man M/T Meredith. We confirmed this with Seagem and with the Philippine embassy in Abuja, Nigeria,” De Castro said.

He said the six who are returning home on Flight GF154 are Rogelio Andales, Raymon de Domingo, Gloriand Sales, Michael Domingo, Alfredo Ferrer and Jebb Alonte. The three who were left behind are Novelito Trapsi, Elmer Cruz and George Parreño.

Manning agency Seagem Maritime Int’l contracted the Filipino crewmen, who manned a ship reportedly owned by Corinthian Maritime SA, Golden Carrier Shipping and Maritime Management Synergy SA.

“Seagem, through Capt. Jun Tuason, explained that their agency immediately acted upon our request. The three seafarers who remained in Nigeria will be included in the next batch to be repatriated. While OWWA Chief Carmelita Dimzon said that assistance to the group will be given upon their arrival in Manila,” VP De Castro said. – GMANews.TV

Abu Sayyaf’s new generation threatens Philippines

February 22, 2009

02/22/2009 | 06:06 PM

MANILA, Philippines — Not long ago, the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group was dismissed as all but dead, thanks to a much-heralded joint effort against terrorism by the U.S. and the Philippine military.

Now there is fear that the Abu Sayyaf may be coming back.

The group is blamed for a spate of kidnappings in recent months, including the latest — that of a Sri Lankan peace worker on southern Basilan Island earlier this month. Abu Sayyaf raised more than $1.5 million last year through ransoms, and its ranks rose to 400 members last year from 383 in 2007, a confidential government report noted. Also, new leaders are rising to take the place of those captured by U.S.-backed troops.

The rebirth of Abu Sayyaf raises renewed fears of terrorism. So far Abu Sayyaf has focused on raising money through kidnappings, but it is likely to pursue high-profile assaults to reassert its stature as a terror group, the report noted. Abu Sayyaf has also allowed foreign militants, mostly members of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, to make the region their home.

“As long as they are there, they can provide safe haven for Jemaah Islamiyah where they can train the next generation of bombers and terrorists. That’s why they’re a threat,” said Col. William Coultrup, who heads the U.S. counterterrorism forces in Mindanao.

Abu Sayyaf, which means “Father of the Swordsman” in Arabic, was founded in 1991 in Basilan province and supported by Asian and Middle Eastern radical groups. It came to the attention of the U.S. in 2001, when the group kidnapped three Americans among 20 people taken from a tony Philippine resort.

Abu Sayyaf was also thought to be sheltering Indonesian members of Jemaah Islamiyah, including Umar Patek and Dulmatin. The two are suspected of masterminding the Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people in 2002, and then fleeing to Abu Sayyaf strongholds in Mindanao to evade an anti-terror crackdown in Indonesia.

The Phillipine military did not have the funds for a full-out assault against Abu Sayyaf, so American troops came in with weapons, combat training and surveillance. They helped rein in a brief but brutal era of mass kidnappings, bombings and beheadings by the militants. Washington has poured millions of dollars into the Philippines in military assistance and civic projects.

Amid its problems in Iraq, Washington hailed the success against Abu Sayyaf, and life and commerce bounced back on Basilan. But in 2004, Abu Sayyaf and Indonesian militants were blamed for a bombing that ignited an inferno in a ferry near Manila Bay, killing 116 people. Abu Sayyaf also espoused a more violent “jihad,” or holy war, in Mindanao, where more than 120,000 people have died in decades-long Muslim separatist unrest.

Last year Abu Sayyaf kidnapped at least 12 people in Jolo, Basilan and three other southern provinces, including a TV news team, according to the government report. Several captives have been ransomed off since, but 10, including three Red Cross workers taken on Jan. 15, remain in Abu Sayyaf’s hands. Snatched from a car at gunpoint on Sulu province’s Jolo Island after inspecting a jail water project, the missing Red Cross workers — two Europeans and a Filipina — are being held in the lush jungle.

On Feb. 13, Sri Lankan peace activist Umar Jaleel was snatched from his Basilan residence.

Abu Sayyaf’s comeback is led by a new generation of leaders, said Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, who heads a Jolo anti-terrorism task force.

“All the Abu Sayyaf’s ideologues are dead, the ones left behind are bandits,” Sabban said. “The support they’re counting on from other countries has vanished. Now, everybody’s on his own, trying to raise money through kidnappings. They say they’re fighting for a cause? No way.”

Out of the 24 original leaders and militants whose faces were on a wanted poster widely distributed across the sprawling archipelago, only nine remain at large. The rest are dead or in jail, their faces marked off one by one. Abu Sayyaf’s oldest, ailing commander, one-armed Radulan Sahiron, is missing, and vanished after a Dec. 7 clash that killed his cherished white horse, according to Sabban.

Among the new leaders is the colorful Albader Parad, who was just a scrawny foot soldier with an M203 grenade launcher dangling from his small frame nine years ago. Parad was involved in a 2000 mass kidnapping from the Sipadan resort in nearby Malaysia that netted 10 Europeans and 11 other people. When the kidnappers allowed a group of journalists to visit the hostages, Parad swiped the watch of an Associated Press reporter.

A military dossier seen by the AP described Parad as coming from a poor family where most relatives belonged to the Abu Sayyaf or had links to it. He has amassed 20 million pesos (more than $400,000) from a string of early 2000 abductions, some of which was invested by relatives in passenger transport and coconut farmlands, according to the military dossier.

“We want the military to pull out. If not, we won’t talk to anyone,” Parad said in a video aired in early February by the ABS-CBN news network, boldly showing his face to the camera while a bunch of masked gunmen stood behind him in the woods near Jolo’s Indanan township.

Behind the scenes, there are widespread reports that Parad is privately seeking money to free the hostages.

Parad was one of the earliest new Abu Sayyaf commanders to emerge, but he has plenty of violent company at the top. He has been joined by at least three others, according to the government security threats report and a military official.

The report said two new commanders now lead their own factions — Nurhassan Jamiri from Basilan and Sulaiman Pattah from Jolo, both predominantly Muslim provinces in the country’s most destitute region.

Jamiri, who is in his 20s, has been linked to kidnappings and the beheading of 10 marines during a 2007 clash. Pattah, a one-armed militant, gained notoriety for allegedly helping lead last year’s kidnapping of popular TV news anchor Ces Drilon and her two crewmen in Jolo.

Another new commander is Furuji Indama, marine Lt. Col. Leonard Vincent Teodoro told the AP. He helps lead the same faction as Jamiri and has been blamed for kidnappings and other terrorist attacks in Basilan, said Teodoro, who has overseen assaults against the two.

Even the government concedes that the battle against one of Southeast Asia’s most violent groups is far from over.

“I think they’ve morphed into something else, just like … criminal gangs,” Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told the AP. – AP

Nigeria punishes 13 Filipinos for oil theft in delta

February 21, 2009

ABUJA, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Thirteen Filipinos were sentenced to five years in jail or a $6,770 fine on Friday after pleading guilty to handling oil products suspected to have been stolen in the Niger Delta.

The military arrested them in November after intercepting a vessel suspected of carrying 12,000 tonnes of stolen crude oil in the delta, the heart of Nigeria’s oil sector.

Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil but thieves take a sizeable proportion of its output by drilling into pipelines or hijacking barges loaded with oil, theft known locally as “bunkering”.

“The accused persons, who initially pleaded not guilty on arraignment, later changed their plea and they were found guilty based on their plea,” said a spokesman for Nigeria’s anti- corruption police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Some estimates say 100,000 barrels of crude are stolen from the Niger Delta each day, about five percent of the country’s production and equivalent to around $4 million daily or $1.5 billion a year at current prices.

It is shipped out of Nigeria and sold on the international market. Human Rights Watch has put the amount stolen at two or three times that level.

Last week, the military impounded 22 barges of stolen crude oil in the delta in what it said was its biggest seizure for months. (Reporting by Randy Fabi, edited by Richard Meares)