Ensure Protection of Rights and Welfare of all Filipino Seafarers

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We, Filipino seafarers, together with our families, seafarers advocates, and faith-based seafarers missions are united in calling on the Philippine government, manning agencies, and ship companies for the full protection of the rights and welfare of all stranded and repatriated Filipino seafarers.

Seafarers worldwide, about 1.6 million are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 global health crisis. There are more than 100,000 seafarers who are stranded in vessels and who cannot return home due to the refusal of port authorities to let them transit. Many of the transit ports are also closed due to lockdown and widespread infections in cruise ships.

Filipino seafarers, who compose a quarter of the global fleet, are among them. Since the pandemic began,  20,000+ Filipino seafarers have been repatriated back to the Philippines, while many are still in quarantine. While thousands continue to be stranded in ships overseas and in the Manila Bay, awaiting to be assisted for repatriation and release. Thousands of jobless seafarers applying to be rehired have also been stranded in the National Capital Region and are now in limbo, waiting for a non existent job, and there are no POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) new hiring.

The health of seafarers are deteriorating due to being stranded for many weeks and months, loss of economic livelihood to support their families, substandard quarantine facilities, and delayed health services.

To address the humanitarian crisis facing Filipino seafarers, we urgently demand the following:

Immediate Release of Government Financial Assistance

Immediate release of the promised $200 from the DOLE-AKAP program to all seafarers who are in need. The release should be fast, and without any red tape and unrealistic requirements that cannot be produced due to the lockdown. Jobless seafarers applying to be rehired must also be covered. There should be continued financial assistance for every month until normalcy.

Immediate Payment of Compensation & Benefits from Employers

Immediate and prompt payment by the Manning Agencies and Shipowners of the earned wages, hazard pay, unpaid allotments, termination pay, leave pay and medical benefits of seafarers.

Ensure COVID19 Testing & Medical Care

Implement immediate and systematic PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing of all stranded and repatriated seafarers including PUIs and PUMs, Suspected and Probable persons. Provide proper and hygienic isolation for all, prompt treatment for confirmed cases, and swift issuance of quarantine and health clearances after PCR testing. Provide seafarers with proper information and guide on COVID19 prevention and management and provide transparent and accurate reports to the public.

Provide Medical & Mental Health Services

Access to timely medical attention to all repatriated seafarers aside from those with COVID 19 cases. Timely psycho-social counseling and intervention to stressed and distressed seafarers onboard and upon arrival due to any trauma and anxiety caused by the lockdown and the pandemic should be given.

Ensure Decent Quarantine Facilities, Food and Transportation Assistance

All seafarers in need should be given free food assistance, hygiene kits and health supplies (vitamins, masks). There should be decent and safe quarantine facilities for all repatriated seafarers who are stranded due to the failure of the promised OWWA transportation provisions. Government agencies should provide safe, organized and well-coordinated transportation to and from their hometowns.

Implement Moratorium on fee collections and Remove Philhealth Mandatory Collection

Immediately stop the implementation of burdensome fee charges for seafarers especially SSS and OWWA contributions, allowing only the collection of employer counterparts in some cases. Remove the Philhealth mandatory membership and collection of premium increase by amending the Universal Health Care Act.

Stop the Discrimination and Prejudice

There should be effective Government intervention and information campaign to prevent all acts of discrimination against OFWs, seafarers, and frontline healthworkers.

On a global scale, the Philippine Government should proactively call on the world community and states to provide safe green lanes in ports and airports for the repatriation and boarding of transiting seafarers and migrant workers. The Philippine government must join and support the call of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) for all governments to provide the green lanes despite lockdown protocols and discrimination.

A Call to Unity and Action

Towards these ends, we unite with one voice to defend and advance the rights and welfare of seafarers and migrant workers in the face of the pandemic, oppressive restrictions, neglect and abandonment. We call on all Filipino seafarers, their families and all advocates of seafarers rights to join us in this fight.

Together, we face the darkness, together, we shall see the light.

 

SIGNED: 

1. Most Reverend Rhee M. Timbang, Obispo Maximo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente

2. Fr. June Mark Yañez, Chaplain, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Europe 

3. Ms. Lailani Tolentino, Country Manager, Mission to Seafarers, PH Family Network

4. Ms. May S Jose, Program Coordinator, Mission to Seafarers, PH Family Network 

5. Atty. Edwin Dela Cruz, President, International Seafarers Action Center

6. Ms. Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson, Migrante International