DAVAO CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A Korean and Filipino hostage were released by armed groups on Saturday, January 14.
The hostages were turned over to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza whose plane landed in Jolo, Sulu at 7:40 am on Saturday, January 14.
That afternoon, Dureza landed in Davao City's old airport with the two hostages, South Korean Park Chul Hong and Filipino Glenn Alindajao.
Dureza said he wasn't sure if it were the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who actually released them because the hostages were transferred from one group to another. Initial reports from military sources said the information about the release was circulated in ASG circles.
Dureza said no ransom was paid and that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) helped broker the release. But Rappler sources claim P25 million was paid to the hostage-takers.
Kim Yang Jun, the representative of the boat company employing the hostages, declined to say if the company paid ransom.
Dureza met the two hostages at the Jolo airport after they were turned over by former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan who had secured the hostages from the MNLF.
The Philippine military has identified the Korean hostage Park as captain of a South Korean-flagged cargo ship, and Alindajao as crew member.
Alindajao declined to be interviewed but gave a message of gratitude to the government for his release. His son and wife are waiting for him to arrive in Cebu.
Their ship, the 11,400-ton heavy load carrier Dong Bang Giant 2, was attacked by men claiming to be Abu Sayyaf members last October. It is the first such attack on a large merchant vessel.
The attack occurred just off the southern entry of the Sibutu Passage, a 29-kilometer (18-mile) wide channel used by merchant shipping in transit between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
The channel lies off the southern Philippines' Tawi-Tawi islands, which together with the nearby Sulu archipelago are preyed on by Abu Sayyaf militants based in the region.
The cargo ship was heading for South Korea from Australia.
The latest release brings the total number of hostages released under the Duterte administration to 27.
This number is composed of 2 Filipinos, 1 Norwegian, 1 Korean, and 23 Indonesians.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.