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Arroyo says alleged murder by Filipino sailors 'isolated' case.

TOKYO, May 22 Kyodo

Visiting Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday lauded Filipino sailors' role in the Japanese shipping industry as she played down the alleged murder by two Filipino sailors on a Panamanian-flagged tanker in international waters as an ''isolated'' case.

''This is not typical of a Filipino seafarer,'' Arroyo said of the alleged murder which took place in April, stressing the country prided itself on its dedicated workers including seamen.

''Twenty years ago, the Philippines saw the opportunity to serve shipowners with competent, competitive and loyal seafarers,'' the 55-year-old president told an audience at a Tokyo hotel.

Arroyo was attending a ceremony where she presented a letter of appreciation to Japanese Shipowners Association (JSA) President Yasuhide Sakinaga.

The JSA, a nationwide association of shipping firms, presented her with a miniature model yacht as a token of appreciation.

Arroyo said her nation ''does not condone wrongdoing'' but urged ''due process of law'' for its citizens.

Describing the country's seafaring sector as vital to human resource services in her administration's fight against poverty, Arroyo in her letter of appreciation thanked the JSA for its continued support in employing and training Filipino sailors.

The Philippine leader said her country in turn will continue to ensure a ''long-term pool of well-qualified, disciplined, hardworking, healthy, globally competitive and team-spirited seafarers of the highest standards.''

Filipino seafarers aboard the estimated 400 vessels of the JSA total about 30,000, who earn more than $250 million annually, according to Arroyo.

The two Filipino sailors on the 148,330-ton tanker Tajima owned by Tokyo-based Kyoei Tanker Co. had confessed to killing a Japanese crew member who went missing at sea on April 7 off Taiwan.

The vessel is owned, managed and operated by Kyoei Tanker, but is registered in Panama -- which gives Panama jurisdiction over the ship -- to avoid being subject to high Japanese taxes and strict shipping-control regulations.

The two currently in the custody of the Japan Coast Guard are expected to be handed over to Panama, where they will be tried.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:May 27, 2002
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