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PIA Press Release

Kin of Filipino crew detained in Nigeria appeal to President Arroyo

Tacloban City (October 24) -- The desperate parents of the MT Lovell Sea all Filipino crew appealed for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's intercession and help for the repatriation of their seamen-sons from Lagos, Nigeria where they are being held inside their tanker for three months already.

Tanauan LGU Budget Officer, Mr. Marcelino Mueva and his seaman son Mendele, who were guests in yesterday's episode of Harampang Ha PIA, aired the appeal for and in behalf of the parents of the remaining crew of MT Lovell Sea which has been detained, together with its 23 all Filipino crew in Nigeria since July 26, 2009 for alleged violation of Cabotage Law of Nigeria.

The father and son guests tearfully appealed for help from the highest official of the land who they believe can help bring home to the Philippines the 14 crewmen who are still being detained at the tanker, about 5 nautical miles away from Lagos shores.

The plight of the Filipino seaman has been virtually unknown by the Philippine Government until September 26 when Mendele Mueva, 26, of Tanauan, Leyte, made separate very urgent text messages to his father, his mother and his wife which stated: "Please call, very urgent."

His parents immediately called him up but could not hear him well. As they have been doing since the capture of the tanker, Mr. Mueva sent cellphone load to their seaman son so that he could call them up.

Mendel, a deck officer, has been in constant contact with his family ever since the MV Lovell Sea. For the first time, the son who has always told his family the crew is doing well in Lagos, confessed that they are running out of food supply, they thrive on rainwater, the refrigerator of the ship was out of order and that they are just using an emergency generator based on a schedule.

Sometimes, the principal sends in a week-supply of food but the crew is not sure when the next delivery is, so they tried to just eat "lugaw" and viand, so they will not run out of food.

To make matters worse, the crew has not received wages since June and so many of them cannot afford to buy their ticket for home if they decide to jump ship.

At about the same time, the older Mueva received a call from Captain CA Adolfo, the father of the tanker's Chief Mate Francis Adolfo, who told him that they (parents of the crewmembers) should meet so they could make moves to help the repatriation of their sons from Lagos, "otherwise, it might be too late."

On October 5, with the help of the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs and the POEA Repatriation Unit, Adjudication Office, the manning agency in Manila, EVIC and the principal, Archipelago Ships Management SA gave the assurance that the members of the crew who which to be repatriated will be assisted.

Originally, 19 of the 23 crewmembers signified their desire to be repatriated. The other crewmembers are considered as "management" so they could not leave the ship. However, upon the promise of payment of the back wages after the crew has brought the tanker to Bangladesh, the ten decided to stay.

The nine crewmembers, one of who is Mendel, arrived in Manila on October 17. On the 19th, they made a courtesy call to USEC Conejos of DFA and to the POEA and OWWA. The other crewmembers who arrived are Merito dela Victoria of Cebu, who arrived just in time to bury his 23-day dead father; Leonardo Saldana; Eduardo Manaot; Don Brian Pallera; Fernando Cruz; Manuel San Juan; Arnold Rebuyon; and Reynan Palmes.

Mendel arrived in TAnauan, Leyte in the afternoon of October 20, happy that he is back with his family but at the same time thinking of his comrades who are still aboard the MT Lovell Sea, two of who are from Eastern Visayas, Chief Mate Francis Adolfo from Abuyog, Leyte and oiler Kenneth Kent Macabata of Sogod, Southern Leyte.

He believes that the President can help his friends because she has been doing a lot for the benefit of the seafarers who are considered one of the best seafarers in the world.

The Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) arrested the foreign vessel Mt. Lovell Sea a 30,000 metric ton tanker vessel with 23 all-Filipino crew, for alleged breach of the Cabotage Act. This is the second vessel the ISAN has arrested. The first vessel was MT Makhamed by ISAN "because the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency has not risen to their responsibilities."

The Federal High Court in Lagos made a landmark order restraining Lovell Sea Carriers and the Master of Lovell Sea from obtaining port clearance for the Lovell Sea or from sailing or causing the said vessel to leave her present location at the Ibafon I Jetty Apapa Port in Lagos and to remain in the custody of the Admiralty Marshall, pending the hearing of the Motion on notice.

In his order, the judge also directed the Nigerian Navy to secure the vessel and to provide regular patrols to prevent the respondents from leaving the jurisdiction.

Life aboard the MT Lovell Sea in Lagos has become unbearable, the crewmembers said. The condition was such that there was insufficient food; no supply of fresh water as the little water they have is dirty rain water collected on deck and rationed 15 to 30 minutes per day; non-operational air conditioning unit due to limited fuel; defective reefer system; much delay in allotment remittance causing the families of the crew to suffer.

One crewmember's children have stopped studying; another crewmember's family were unable to pay their house rental; other families cannot afford to join the other parents because they have no money. (PIA 8) [top]

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