“Like a slave” was how Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad described his almost one year in captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza said Kjartan told him that there was not a single day that the Norwegian had dreamt of getting out from the clutches of his captors.
He said that Sekkingstad was not fed intentionally by the Abu Sayyaf to weaken him so he could not escape.
Thus, Dureza said, September 17 was a “final liberation” for Sekkingstad.
Dureza said they worked for the release of the four kidnap victims since day one of their capture on September 21, 2015. He lamented that of the four only two survived — Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor.
Robert Hall and Dureza’s personal friend John Ridsdel were beheaded by the bandits after the ransom demand was not met. The kidnappers demanded a P300 million ransom for each of the victims.
Dureza revealed that Ridsdel’s family offered money in exchange for his friend’s liberty. But the Abu Sayyaf did not accept it is was way below what they demanded.
Thus, Dureza said, he is not keen on believing rumors that the family of Sekkingstad paid P30 million ransom for the Norwegian’s liberty. The secretary revealed that the rumored ransom of Sekkingstad was just half the amount the Ridsdel family earlier offered but was not accepted by the ASG.
Dureza theorized that the real reason of Sekkingstad’s release was because the of the intense military operation against the ASG.
“Because of the military operation the ASG have to let go of their “baggage” (hostages) but also there maybe are other factors,” Dureza said.
Sekkingstad earlier admitted when interviewed immediately after his release that they have experienced numerous firefights between the ASG and the government forces. The kidnap victim said that one bullet even landed inside his backpack which he is keeping as a memento.
Dureza said that when he first met Sekkingstad, his only worldly possession was a backpack with an empty water jug and that the Norwegian was holding on to it like a treasured item.
Dureza said Sekkingstad would be traveling back to Norway but the Norwegian promised to return to Davao which he called home for the past 7 years.
Three city councilors conducted an ocular inspection Wednesday morning in several wharves in Davao City to see if the sea vessel operators are complying with the law requiring all motorized seacrafts to have their passengers wear or hold lifejackets while on voyage.
Councilors Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr. of the Committee on Public Safety; Al Ryan Alejandre of the Committee on Tourism and Beautification; and Victorio Advincula Jr. of the Committee on Social Services first visited the Sta. Ana wharf where several sea vessels going to the Island Garden City of Samal are docked.
Before the three councilors arrived, they have already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard stationed in Sta. Ana wharf. PCG personnel were already checking on the passenger sea vessels docked at the said wharf for compliance.
Mario Reta, owner of a boat plying the Davao and Isla Reta route, said that there is no need for the passengers to be wearing lifejacket as their vessel is a closed-deck vessel. He reasoned out that only the open-deck vessels are required to wear a lifejacket.When the councilors arrived in the wharf, they readily checked the passenger vessels and noted that Isla Reta passengers are not wearing lifejackets while waiting for the start of their voyage.
Councilor Abellera confronted Reta about their non-compliance that led to a heated exchange. This prompted Abellera to call Maritime Industry Authority 11 (Marina) director Felisa Orongan to give light on the issue.
The air quality reading in Davao Region has remarkably improved over the weekend after two days of consecutive rains which lasted for almost an hour each.
The Environmental Management Bureau’s Air Quality Management Section said that the particulate matter reading last Sunday was less than 10 micrometer while the microgram per cubic meter registered at 43.
This is an improvement from the previous reading of 65-93 microgram per cubic meter from October 17-24. Health authorities said that once it reaches 155 and more, then then the air quality becomes dangerous especially to those who have respiratory problems.
The EMB said that the air quality has improved from fair to good. The agency credited the improvement to the northerly wind and the heavy downpour during the weekend.
Asked how long they expect the haze to stay in the country, the EMB said that it will totally depend on the source of the haze. The haze is believed to have come from the Indonesia fires.
For now, health authorities said, people can still do their usual normal activities in the open air.
Those who have respiratory ailments are however advised to limit any outdoor activities and to wear the appropriate mask, in this case a N95 mask, that would filter out contaminants in the air.