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

KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV
02/25/2009 | 04:19 PM
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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

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