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PBBM taps team for hostage talks

In a video message, the President said the government is exhausting all possibilities to secure the release of the Filipinos.

“That’s why we are forming a delegation to talk to those who are holding them so they can go home. I’m sure you would understand that we put that first because we have to ensure the security of our countrymen,” the President said in Filipino.

The President was set to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but he canceled his trip to attend to the situation of the captive seafarers personally.

“You know some things need immediate attention. One of those is our fellow Filipinos who are being held hostage. There are 17 of them being held hostage and we are doing everything we can to bring them home,” he said.

He said he hoped the Filipino community in Dubai would understand his decision and apologized for not seeing them.

“It’s really sad because I was looking forward to being with you,” he said in his video message, noting that meeting overseas Filipinos were the “happiest” engagements he has had during his previous foreign trips.

He also said the government is addressing the situation of Filipinos affected by the war between Israel and the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Many, he said, have already returned to the Philippines safely, with the assistance of various government agencies.

Overseas Filipino Workers party-list Rep. Marissa Magsino welcomed the President’s decision to cancel his trip to Dubai.

“One of the beacons of hope we cling to in crises is strong leadership, and we laud the President for being an anchor amid the fear and uncertainty of the seafarers and their families,” she said.

“His decision to skip the World Climate Action Summit (COP28) to focus on the release of our 17 Filipino seafarers shows his priorities as the head of the government,” she added.

— Charles Dantes & Rio N. Araja

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