Just in time when they desperately needed it, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III gave hope to grieving families of Filipino seamen who went missing in heavy seas near Japan early this month.
“I know you’re in a very difficult situation, but there’s hope,” Bello told wives, siblings and parents of the seafarers whose cargo ship sank in turbulent waters during a typhoon in the early morning of September 2.
In a meeting at the labor department which was also attended by rescued Chief Officer Eduardo Sareno and Jay-nel Rosales, Bello delivered the good news about renewed search and rescue operations being conducted by the states of China, Taiwan and South Korea.
Prior to this, the Japanese Coast guard, which found three Filipino mariners—two survivors and one fatality—announced it has stopped its special operations for the remaining crew —36 Filipinos, two Australians and two New Zealanders–of the ill-fated MV Gulf Livestock 1.
“So don’t give up on your loved ones because there’s really hope. Three foreign governments are helping us find them,” Bello, who requested the assistance abroad, said.
In his reply to Bello, Huang Xilian, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China, said China has already commenced rescue operations.
“Rest assured that we will continue to provide necessary assistance as requested by the Philippine side,” Xilian said.
On the other hand, Taiwan’s Ambassador Peiyung Hsu told Belo his request was immediately conveyed to the Taiwan Coast Guard (TCG).
“TCG has already conducted search and rescue operations within the waters in Taiwan’s Area of Responsibility. Rest assured that your good office will be kept posted on any findings or developments of the said operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government of South Korea said it has received Bello’s request for help. South Korean Ambassador Han Dong-Man said he has already forwarded the endorsement to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs for proper action.
“I am hoping that our government’s participation in any search and rescue operation that may be conducted will shed light on the status of the missing crew,” the official added.
Elated by the developments, kins of the missing mariners thanked Bello for giving them hope.
“This is what we really need right now. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is as long as it represents hope. Thank you very much,” a wife of one of the seamen being searched said.
Each family of the victims present during the meeting was given financial assistance by DOLE through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).