MANILA, MAY 10, 2007 (STAR) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo thanked Nigeria on Wednesday for its help in securing the release of eight Filipino workers seized by militants in the African nation's oil-rich south.

"The president received thanks from the (workers), especially their families, and the president has sent a letter of thanks and congratulation to the government of Nigeria for the expeditious negotiation," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

Eight Filipinos and three South Koreans were seized from a heavily guarded compound in the southern Niger Delta and driven away in minibuses last Thursday along with a Nigerian driver who was later released.

Ermita told reporters the release of the 11 hostages was made possible by close coordination among the Philippine and Nigerian governments and the workers' Korean employer, Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co.

He said that, in keeping with its policy, the Philippine government was not directly involved in the negotiations which were handled by Daewoo.

8 Pinoy workers freed in Nigeria The Philippine Star 05/10/2007

Eight Filipinos in Nigeria were released by their kidnappers to Nigerian authorities yesterday, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said the eight Filipinos, along with three South Korean workers of Daewoo Engineering and Construction Corp., were taken to the Governor’s House at Port Harcourt, Rivers State at around midnight, Manila time.

At Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he did not know whether Daewoo paid a reported $1-million ransom for the freedom of the hostages.

It was the South Korean firm which negotiated with the hostages-takers, he added.

Ermita said the Philippine government had no involvement in the negotiations for the release of the eight, particularly on the issue of ransom.

It is the policy of the state not to negotiate with hostage-takers, he added.

Conejos said Vice Consul Randy Arquiza, head of the consular team sent by the Philippine embassy in Abuja, Nigeria to Rivers State, reported to the DFA that the eight Filipinos were brought to Security Services Hospital for medical examination after they were released by their abductors. The eight were found to be in good physical condition.

Conejos said the embassy was making arrangements for the early repatriation of the eight Filipino workers.

They were tentatively set to leave Port Harcourt for Lagos, Nigeria early yesterday afternoon and arrive in Manila tomorrow morning, he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo thanked the Nigerian government, the government of South Korea, and officials of Daewoo for their work and cooperation in securing the release of the Filipino workers.

A total of 53 Filipinos are working for Daewoo in Nigeria and 45 of them have already been repatriated last Friday, according to the DFA.

The ban on travel to Nigeria will continue to be in force, the DFA added. —Pia Lee-Brago, Marvin Sy, Bernice Estero, Renee Puno

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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