Marcos  prioritizes Filipino seamen over Dubai trip

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. canceled his plan to attend the 28th United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) in Dubai so he could monitor the situation of Filipino seamen held hostage by pirates in the Red Sea.

   “In light of the important developments in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea, I have made a decision not to attend COP 28 in Dubai tomorrow,” he said in a statement issued on Nov. 30.

       He gave the assurance that the government would exhaust all remedies available to secure the release of the Filipinos held hostage by Yemen-based Houthi rebels. He planned to dispatch a high-level delegation to Tehran, Iran, to assist the seamen.

    Iran backed the Houthis, who seized the Israeli-owned cargo ship Galaxy Leader,  as an act of solidarity with Hamas in its war with Israel.

    Galaxy Leader is owned by Israeli businessman Rami Ungar but chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen. It is currently docked in Yemen’s Hodeida port area.

Undersecretary Eddie de Vega of the Migrant Workers Affairs (left), and the Galaxy Leader (below).

    Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega of the Migrant Workers Office said the Filipino seafarers were all in good condition and would eventually be released. He said the composition of the delegation to Iran was being finalized.

    The Houthi rebel movement started on August 2014, with a series of demonstrations against increased fuel prices in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital. The protests and ensuing repression by government forces soon led to violent clashes between the rebels and government troops.

    Under the leadership of Zaidi religious leader Hussein al-Houthi, the rebel group emerged as an opposition to Yemen’s then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who faced corruption charges.

    The Houthi rebels also criticized Saleh for being supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

    On April 23, 2011, facing massive nationwide protests, Saleh agreed to step down under a 30-day transition plan in which he would receive immunity from criminal prosecution.

    He announced his plan to hand power over to his Vice President, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, as part of the deal.

    Hadi took his oath of office in Yemen’s parliament on Feb. 25, 2012, and was formally inaugurated as president of Yemen on Feb. 27, 2015, when Saleh resigned from the presidency and ceded power.

    But Hadi was forced to resign by the Houthis when he raised fuel subsidies. There was also dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 2011 Revolution.

    Hadi eventually fled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,   and asked its government for help. On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia led a nine-country coalition to intervene in the Yemeni civil war, prompting the evacuation of Filipinos working there.

     Hadi resigned after a two-day standoff with rebel fighters who seized his palace. In 2022, he transferred his power to a newly formed Presidential Leadership Council led by Rashad al-Alimi, which would seek a political solution to Yemen’s civil war.

   Fighting between Houthi rebels and the Saudi coalition that backed  Yemen’s internationally recognized government largely subsided in 2023—eight years and eight months since the fighting started.

    An estimated 4.5 million people—14 percent of the population— had been displaced, most of them multiple times over several years.

    Dialogue between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, along with Saudi normalization,  provided hope for a negotiated solution to the civil war that had been taking place in the Arabian Peninsula, including the southern Saudi regions of  Asir, Jizan, and Najran and the northern Yemeni governorates of Saada, Al Jawf and Hajjah.

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