MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine vice president called Thursday for added safeguards for Filipino seamen following a sharp increase in the number of attacks by Somali pirates on foreign ships.
Records from the office of Vice President Noli de Castro show that 117 Filipino crewmen have been seized by Somali pirates in 11 attacks since April.
The pirates have released some Filipino hostages unharmed but are still holding 96 and have not released the body of one who had been killed in still undisclosed circumstances. There were 20 Filipinos seized in one incident in 2006 and 10 in two attacks last year.
The Philippines is one of the largest suppliers of crewmen in the international shipping industry.
Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said he had no immediate figures to compare the number of Filipinos with seamen from other countries still held by Somali pirates.
In a statement Thursday, de Castro said Filipino seamen should have the option to continue with a voyage through "danger zones" such as the Gulf of Aden or disembark at the nearest safe port.
He suggested that vessels sail in a convoy with military vessel from the unified forces to assure safe passage, especially through the Gulf of Aden.
He also is pushing for higher hazard pay and improved insurance coverage for Filipino seamen "considering that most of the time, they are exposed to danger."
De Castro, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's adviser on overseas Filipino workers, said he is also considering proposals from some shipowners for the Philippine government to discuss in the United Nations the "worsening problem" of piracy in the Gulf.
De Castro, however, opposed the boarding of soldiers on commercial vessels to defend them against pirate attacks, saying that engaging pirates in gunbattles will only increase the danger to the lives of the seamen. - AP