Duterte forms task force to secure Pinoy hostages in Libya

MANILA — Instead of deploying warships to Libya after three Filipinos, along with a South Korean national, were kidnapped by an unidentified armed group, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has decided to form a task force to deal with the hostage crisis.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said although the President earlier considered sending two frigates, he eventually opted to heed the advice of his Cabinet members to form first a task force.

“Of course, he (Duterte) has stated previously that he was thinking of sending frigates together with the Koreans, to at least send the message that the President takes the plight of the Filipino OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) very seriously. But he has since considered the advice of the Cabinet to first form a task force,” Roque said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.

Duterte made the announcement during a Cabinet meeting on Monday (Aug. 6).

Roque said the task force will be headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao, and Mindanao Development Authority chief Abul Khayr Dangcal Alonto.

“The status right now is that we have formed a high-level, all Cabinet-member team to deal with the Libyan government and help in the effort to recover two [sic] of our countrymen who were kidnapped together with a South Korean national,” Roque said.

Roque, meanwhile, emphasized that it was “more prudent” to work with the Libyan government in rescue operations since the kidnappers are not state agents of Libya.

“The problem that complicates this latest case of kidnapping is that the kidnappers are not state agents of Libya. They are militias who are engaged in an armed conflict also with the Libyan government,” Roque said.

“And that is why it was the more prudent to work with the Libyan government to see what the demands are,” he added.

Last Friday (Aug. 3), Duterte bared his plan to send two frigates during the inauguration of the Northern Mindanao Wellness and Rehabilitation Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon after learning that South Korea has deployed a warship to Libya.

“Pag (if) they begin to hurt the Filipinos doon (there), magpadala ako ng frigate (I will send a frigate),” he said in his speech.

Reports showed that the three Filipinos and a South Korean national, who are currently being held captive in Libya, were working at a water plant in Jabal Hasouna in south eastern Libya when they were kidnapped by the bandits on July 6. PNA-northboundasia.com