Freedom at last for 23 Filipino seamen

DUBAI - About 23 Filipino seamen detained at the Al Mamoorah Jail in Ras Al Khaimah for almost three years will soon be reunited with their families in the Philippines when they fly back home.

By Ramona Ruiz

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Published: Tue 7 Oct 2003, 12:33 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 11:30 PM

Accompanied by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's husband, and Amable Aguiluz V, Philippine special envoy in the AGCC, the seamen will leave at 10pm tonight by Gulf Air flight GF-605 from Dubai International Airport. They are scheduled to arrive Manila at 12.45pm tomorrow.

Khaleej Times learned that upon their arrival in Manila, the seamen will be received by their families at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport and will pay a courtesy visit to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Malacanang (Presidential) Palace.

As of yesterday, arrangements to finalise the court and jail clearances of the seamen were being made prior to their release and repatriation to the Philippines today.

A source said that as per the procedures, the seamen will be directly transported to the Dubai Airport today where they will be turned over to the airport immigration officials.

Mr Arroyo and Mr Aguiluz on Sunday called on Shaikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah, and later met the jailed seamen. The required Dh600,000 for the release of the jailed seamen has already been delivered.

Khaleej Times received a tip -off from Roy Seneres, former Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, on Sunday that First Gentleman Arroyo had arrived in Dubai to seek the release of the seamen.

Sources told Khaleej Times that Dh600,000 had already been raised for the release of the seamen whose case dates back to January 2001 where initially, 30 Filipino seamen were held in an Abu Dhabi jail for non-payment of loans and defrauding several banks in the UAE.

An Asian national, who confessed to padding the men's bank loans and appropriating the extra money for himself, was also jailed. Since then, seven Filipino seamen have been released, while the 23 others were transferred to Ras Al Khaimah's Al Mamoorah jail as they owed money to a Ras Al Khaimah bank.

Jose Arthur Ampeso, former Consul General and CDA of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi who has been credited with doing the groundwork for the release of the seamen, told Khaleej Times yesterday that earlier the authorities had agreed on March 28 this year to Dh500,000, but the payment got delayed. "I was dealing with the legal officer in Ras Al Khaimah then. Later, I received word that First Gentleman Arroyo was able to raise five million Philippine pesos, equivalent to Dh367,000, which was about Dh200,000 short of the required amount," he said.

Mr Ampeso added: "In July this year, Mr Aguiluz worked on what I started. The Ras Al Khaimah bank at that time was given a say in the case, and the required amount of Dh500,000 was raised to Dh600,000. I later learned that some 1.5 million pesos (about Dh100,000) was raised by Mr Aguiluz, and they are currently here in the UAE to have the jailed seamen released."

He said that Dh600,000 represented one-fourth of the amount that the 23 seamen had defrauded the bank which totalled Dh2.1 million.

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