The Department of Foreign Affairs is keeping an eye on developments involving a tugboat with 12 Filipinos on board as crew which was supposedly seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf on Saturday over smuggling suspicions.
The DFA said Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo Santos has reported that Iranian Coast Guard personnel are now conducting an investigation into the alleged oil smuggling activities of the tugboat’s crew.
“Once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court,” the DFA said in a statement.
“The Embassy is seeking further updates on the seafarers’ condition, and stands ready to provide assistance when needed,” it added.
The vessel was reportedly carrying 284, 000 liters of diesel when apprehended by Iranian authorities.
While the DFA did not say how many Filipinos were manning the boat when it was apprehended, Iranian news media outlets reported that 12 Filipinos have been detained.
It remains unclear if the detained Filipinos were involved in the alleged smuggling or were simply just part of the vessel’s crew.
This is the second time that Filipino seafarers onboard an oil carrier were arrested in the Persian Gulf.
Last July, Iranian authorities also seized UK-flagged oil tanker MT Stena Impero which had a Filipino seafarer onboard.
Iran later freed seven of the 23 crew members, including the Filipino, of the British-flagged tanker. – Ashzel Hachero