*Data collected by GMANews.TV.MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Saturday hailed a move by Japan to send patrol vessels to the Indian Ocean to protect seafarers, including Filipinos, from piracy.
In an interview with reporters in Tokyo, Mrs. Arroyo said there are many Filipinos at risk in the Gulf of Aden, and Japan’s patrol craft will be a “very, very big source of comfort."
“(It is a) very, very big source of comfort for our Filipino seafarers and our government in behalf of our seafarers," she said, adding she was “very gratified" about the gesture.
The Japanese Diet passed an act that empowers the Japanese government to send patrol craft from its Self Defense Force to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden.
Japanese patrol ships are to protect ships not only carrying the Japanese flag but the flag of any national, Mrs. Arroyo noted.
Mrs. Arroyo noted the protection will benefit at least 30,000 Filipino seafarers manning Japanese vessels.
She said the 30,000 Filipino seamen account for some 70 percent of the total member of sailors manning Japanese vessels, who are at times victims of kidnappings by pirates.
“As a major supplier of the world’s seafarers, we greatly appreciate Japan’s decision to send vessels from the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Indian Ocean to protect Japanese and foreign ships from the scourge of piracy," she said at a speech Friday.
She said the active participation of Japan in combating piracy in the Indian Ocean is an example of the many roles that Japan has assumed internationally.
“This action and other actions clearly demonstrate that Japan should be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council," she said, referring to Japan’s role in the fight against piracy in the high seas.
Several other countries have sent naval patrols to protect their vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. These include the United States, Russia, India, Germany and China.
Last month, patrols of the US, German and Chinese navies prevented the Philippine-flagged MV Stolt Strength from being seized again by Somali pirates, which had just been released along with its 23 all-Filipino crew after the owner paid an undisclosed amount of ransom.
Since January, Somali pirates have seized a total of 287 Filipino seafarers on board 14 ships along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean since January.
A GMANews.TV tally based on records of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed that 245 of the hostages have been released after their ship owners paid ransom to pirates.
Of the 42 hostages on board three ships who are still being held by their captors, three were seized only