The Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network (SEANETWORK), a newly formed group of seafarers rights and welfare support organizations, welcomes the inclusion of seafarers in the vaccination priority (A4) as proposed by the Department of Transportation. Right now, based on the MARINA and POEA data, there are 730,651 Filipino seafarers, 549,000 of whom are active seafarers around 497,000 are those deployed overseas and 51,000 are serving locally. The rest of them, some 181,000 seafarers are without updated sea service within the last three (3) years.
The COVID 19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of livelihood of some 200,000 Filipino seafarers worldwide, and the hardly hit are the seafarers on board Cruise Ships that have halted their operations globally. Many Filipinos were among the 400,000 stranded seafarers worldwide for many months, that was reported by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). Many were infected by the virus or suffered illnesses that were aggravated due to the lockdown and COVID 19 protocols.
The SEANETWORK was formed to respond to this crisis of stranded, infected and distressed Filipino seafarers. But the problem is not yet over. In fact, the pandemic has worsened in the Philippines where a few days ago, the highest ever number of active cases in the country and in Southeast Asia was reported, despite flawed and insufficient mass testing of suspected cases.
The promised cash aid of the government of a one time Php 10,000 has barely reached half of the 730,651 total seafarers listed under MARINA data. And more than a year has passed without many of them having any other source of income and livelihood. Many seafarers who suffered illnesses, injuries and death due to Covid 19 or aggravated by the pandemic lockdown and protocols, have not yet received their medical benefits from the companies who claim that these incidents are not work related.
Seafarers promised with rehiring suffer exposure in cheap and unhealthy quarantine areas, some get infected with Covid 19 and the company refuse responsibility, delaying the signing of contracts and denying any sickness and medical liability. Returning seafarers also suffer in unsafe and unhealthy quarantine areas after repatriation and many get infected due to government and company neglect.More than half of the total number of seafarers have not been rehired and are still jobless, waiting for a new contract that will never happen in the near future.On the occasion of the international labor day on May 1, and the global day of Health and Safety at Work, we issue these demands on behalf of the SEANETWORK:
1. Immediate Cash Aid of Php 10,000 now from the government to all of the 730,651 seafarers nationwide and their families, including those who have already received assistance during the pandemic year;
2. Prompt medical attention to all seafarers who are infected by Covid 19 or who get sick, injured or who died during this period even if these were sustained during or after employment, without any requirement that they are proven to be work related;
3. Clean, safe and adequate quarantine facilities for repatriatedseafarers and those who are waiting for rehire and redeployment. The contract coverage and medical benefits must include and cover the quarantine time both for inbound and outbound seafarers;
4. Job security for all seafarers who were repatriated and priority of rehiring to all ex crews;
5. Immediate government repatriation of all stranded seafarersworldwide;
6. Free mass testing of all Seafarers and their Families nationwide;
7. Free and prioritized vaccination of all Seafarers and their Families.