Hontiveros urges DFA: Press Japan on rescue of Filipino seafarers
A coast guard vessel rescues a Filipino crewman off Amami Oshima island in this handout photo taken on Sept. 2 and provided by the 10th Regional Coast Guard headquarters yesterday. Japan’s coast guard said one person was found during a search for a cargo ship with 43 people on board after receiving a distress call from the East China Sea during a typhoon.
Hontiveros urges DFA: Press Japan on rescue of Filipino seafarers
(Philstar.com) - September 18, 2020 - 3:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to convince the Japanese government to "continue and intensify" its search and rescue operations for the 36 missing Filipino seafarers who were aboard a cargo vessel which sank off the coast of southwest Japan. 

"It has been [over] two weeks," Hontiveros emphasized on Friday, advocating for the families of the missing seafarers who are still awaiting news of their loved ones.

Gulf Livestock 1, a Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel, made a distress call on September 2 from Amami Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. DFA the following day confirmed that the vessel was carrying 43 crew members, 39 of whom were Filipino.

A report from Agence France-Presse identified the remaining four crew members as two New Zealanders, an Australian and a Singaporean.

So far, two survivors and one fatality, all three of whom are Filipinos, have been confirmed by the DFA through the Japanese Coast Guard. 

The DFA on September 10 reported that the Japanese Coast Guard "decided to transition from full-time search operations for the crew of the missing vessel Gulf Livestock-1 to its usual patrol arrangements as they have found no trace of the ship since 05 September 2020."

Later the same day, the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines issued a statement saying that search and rescue operations were ongoing. 

'Allow other countries to join search operations'

In a letter dated September 16, and marked received by the DFA the following day, Hontiveros further made her case to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., urging him to convince Japan to allow other countries to join the search. 

"I firmly believe that, as long as the families have not given up on their loved ones, our government should sustain the fight by persuading the Japanese government to not only continue and expand SAR operations but also, if possible, to allow other countries such as the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand to join the search as well," the document reads. 

According to the Hontiveros, the Gulf Livestock 1 incident "activates the 'Good Samaritan Vessel' doctrine, which encourages seafarers to save lives and property in case of danger." 

She further noted that there is a legal obligation to provide assistance to those who are in distress on the high seas pursuant to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), and International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue 1979 (SAR).

"I recognize the valuable work DFA has done in keeping the families abreast of developments vis-à-vis SAR operations, but I also understand the desperation, frustration, and helplessness the families must be feeling during this difficult period," she added. 

Hontiveros cited one of the survivors of the incident who said that members of the crew were able to wear their life jackets before jumping into the water. 

"This gives families hope that their loved-ones are still alive at sea or on an island. Consequently, I would like to reiterate their request for our government to not give up by exhausting all efforts," the senator urged in her letter.

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