Pinoy captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

Rudy Santos - The Philippine Star
Pinoy captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack
Christian Domarique, captain of the Houthi-hit MV Tutor, arrives with the rest of the rescued Filipino crew at the NAIA yesterday. They were met by officials and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Health and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
AFP, Rudy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — MV Tutor captain Christian Domarique has vowed to return to the seas after he and 20 other Filipino seafarers were rescued from a June 12 Houthi attack.

“We first need to rest because of the trauma,” Domarique said yesterday at a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

“We will recover for a few months before returning,” he added.

Houthi rebels in the Red Sea attacked the Greek-owned and Liberia-flagged MV Tutor, which carried a crew of 22 Filipinos.

One of them is missing and believed to be trapped in the engine room. Search operations are underway.

Domarique recalled that a remote-controlled “dummy” skiff hit the vessel on the right side and exploded.

A drone caused a second explosion on the other side of the ship, he added.

“We could not determine where the enemy was, if they would be coming from above or at sea. The ship was almost submerged after a few minutes,” Domarique said.

“We tried to locate our missing fellow seafarer in the engine room but we couldn’t concentrate due to the water coming in,” he added.

Combined international forces rescued the crew on June 14 and the US Navy brought them to Bahrain.

Before arriving in Manila, the seafarers were given financial assistance of 192 dinars or P30,000 as they met with Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Health (DOH).

The crew yesterday received P230,000 in financial assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Migrant Workers.

The DMW will meet this week with maritime stakeholders to discuss amending the policy allowing Filipino seafarers to refuse boarding foreign vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The existing policy ensures that Filipino seafarers have the option to disembark vessels cruising the Red Sea and be assigned to another ship, he noted.

Cacdac said 25 Filipino seafarers have exercised their right to refuse sailing since the policy implementation.

Manifestations to refuse sailing may be written or verbal, using forms or by phone, he noted.

The agency will look into how ship owners obtained seafarers’ consent to board a vessel that would transit the Red Sea, which has been designated a warlike zone.

The June 12 attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah was the third Houthi rebel attack on a ship manned by Filipino seafarers since last year, with two Filipino sailors dying and 17 still held by militants, government data showed.

The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

A US-led airstrike campaign targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes last May 30, killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others.

Medical evaluation

The DOH is evaluating the conditions of the 21 Filipino seafarers.

“I was able to talk to several of them, and you will notice they’ve been under post-traumatic stress,” Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said in a radio interview.

“That is what we are assessing right now. We are extending psychosocial support to them,” he added.

Their evaluation would be continuous as they “underwent a near-death experience,” he noted.

Speaker hands cash assistance

A P150,000 cash assistance has been provided each to the 21 seafarers by Speaker Martin Romualdez and his wife, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez.

Sourced from the couple’s personal calamity funds, the P3.15-million aid would provide immediate support to the seafarers and their families, said Tingog party-list Rep. Jude Acidre.

“We are deeply relieved that our brave seafarers are coming home safe. This assistance is a token of our gratitude for their courage and resilience during this harrowing ordeal,” the Speaker said.

“Our seafarers are our modern-day heroes, and it is our duty to ensure their welfare,” his wife said.

The Speaker is also working to provide livelihood assistance under the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Another P10,000 per qualified immediate family member will also be included in the aid package, under the DSWD’s Ayuda para sa Kapos ang Kita program and DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers program.

Qualified family members could receive assistance under the Tulong Dunong scholarship program of the Commission on Higher Education. — Mayen Jaymalin, Rhodina Villanueva

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