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Panay News Editorial: Prioritize welfare of Filipino seafarers

Prioritize welfare of Filipino seafarers
November 25, 2023

THE PLIGHT of Filipino seafarers, as exemplified by the recent hostage situation involving an Ilonggo and 16 other Filipinos in the Red Sea, casts a spotlight on the vital yet often perilous nature of their profession. Filipino seafarers, integral to the global maritime industry, consistently face a unique set of challenges and risks, underscoring the need for heightened attention to their welfare and safety.

The incident with the cargo ship “Galaxy Leader”, hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, is a stark reminder of the geopolitical risks that seafarers encounter. Situations like these not only pose immediate dangers to their lives but also bring emotional and psychological distress to their families. The reaction of family of the hostaged Ilonggo seafarer, marked by severe health impacts, is a testament to the profound personal toll such incidents can have.

This situation also highlights the broader context of the maritime profession. Seafarers often choose this path to provide better opportunities for their families, braving long periods away from home and challenging work conditions. Their contribution to the global economy is immense, yet their work environment can be fraught with hazards, ranging from piracy and armed robbery to harsh weather and precarious working conditions.

The response of the Philippine government, led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Department of Foreign Affairs, is crucial in such scenarios. Their commitment to the safety of Filipino seafarers is commendable, but it also raises questions about the proactive measures in place to prevent such incidents. Are Filipino seafarers receiving adequate training and support to navigate these risks? Is there a robust framework to ensure their rights and welfare are protected internationally?

Moreover, the international community’s role cannot be understated. The incident involving the Houthi rebels, against the backdrop of the Yemeni Civil War and the broader Middle East conflict, demonstrates the complexities of international politics and its impact on innocuous third parties like seafarers. The actions of the Houthis, designating ships connected to Israel as “legitimate targets”, show a disregard for international norms and the safety of civilians. Such actions are condemned by various countries and organizations, with some, like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia, designating the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization.

The welfare and safety of Filipino seafarers must be a priority for both the Philippine government and the international maritime community. This includes ensuring fair working conditions, adequate safety measures, access to emergency assistance, and strong diplomatic support in crisis situations. The incident of the “Galaxy Leader” is a call to action, a reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by seafarers and the need for concerted efforts to safeguard their well-being. As they continue to be pivotal in the global supply chain, their protection should be equally prioritized in the global agenda.