By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

(File photo)

MANILA – The Iranian Embassy in Manila has promised to extend assistance to the Philippines in its request for the release of 18 Filipinos on board an oil tanker that Iran seized in the Gulf of Oman this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

“We’re in touch with the Iranian government. The Iranian ambassador has promised assistance, so there’s the confirmation that it (the ship) was captured. So, we’re just ascertaining the condition of our 18 seafarers,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega said in an interview over ABS-CBN.

De Vega said the DFA is still waiting for an official report from its embassy in Iran and cannot yet confirm the condition of the Filipino seafarers.

“We can say that, so far, there is no indication that they are being harmed or mistreated. Wala (none),” he said. “The Iranian ambassador assured that they will work on it so that they will be released as soon as possible.”

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), on the other hand, is in touch with the families of the 18 seafarers to extend necessary assistance.

Ang DMW ay nakafocus sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa pamilya ng ating mga kababayan. Sa ngayon naman maganda naman ang update dito. Nasa maganda silang kalagayan (The DMW is focused on coordinating with their families. So far, the update on this is encouraging. They are in a good condition),” DMW Undersecretary Patricia Yvonne Caunan said.

Patuloy ang DMW na makipag-ugnayan sa DFA para i-monitor ang kanilang situwasyon (The DMW will continue to coordinate with the DFA to monitor the seafarers’ situation).”

Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker ST Nikolas in the Gulf of Oman while the ship was in transit between the Iraqi port of Basra and Turkey.

The oil tanker, previously named Suez Rajan, had been the subject of attention in 2023 when the more than 980,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil it was carrying were confiscated by the United States in a sanction enforcement operation.

Local reports quoting the Iranian Navy said Thursday the seizure was in retaliation for the US confiscation.

“The tanker, renamed ST Nicholas, was seized on Thursday, with a judicial order and in retaliation for the theft of Iran’s oil by the US,” Iran-based Fars News Agency said, citing a statement from the Navy. (PNA)