By Ariel Fernandez
The seven Filipino seafarers released from prison in Libya finally arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 3 today (Tuesday) at around 7:20 pm onboard Turkish Airlines via Istanbul.
Escorted by the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Affairs Abdullah Mamao the seafarers were welcomed by their families and Philippine government representatives. On hand to meet them upon arrival were Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac, PNR Chair Roberto Lastimoso and other officials.
The group left the North African country along with Mamao who expressed his gratitude to Libyan authorities after meeting with the Libyan Foreign Minister Taher Siala in Tripoli. He also delivered the letter of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin to Minister Siala.
The Filipino seafarers have been detained in Libya since 2017. They were among the 20 Filipinos arrested after the Libyan Coast Guard boarded and seized Liberian-flagged M/T Levante while anchored in international waters, according to the DFA. The 20 Filipino seafarers were then accused of trying to smuggle fuel.
Thirteen of the arrested crewmembers of Levante were released in February 2018 but the remaining seven were charged before the Libyan Court. In November 2018, the seven Filipinos were sentenced to four years in prison for allegedly attempting to smuggle 16 million liters of fuel.
A few weeks ago, the Libyan High Court ordered the release of the seven Filipino seafarers identified as Aldwin Emperado,34 of Tabuk Kalinga, Gil Crusada of Nasugbu, Batangas, Capt. Arthur Taleno of Las Pinas, Fulgencio Eulogio,53 of Leyte, Abraham “Gerry” Naduman 45 of Misamis Occidental, Claro Allera and Ronnie Moniva.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli worked hard for the release of the seven seafarers who have consistently denied the charges.