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Manning agencies seek P3.5-B fund for seafarers

Manning agencies seek P3.5-B fund for seafarers
Genivi Factao May 13, 2020

Seafarers are also among those most affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. PHOTO FROM FASMARITIME
Stakeholders in the country’s seafaring and manning industry have appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte for P3.5-billion funding for thousands of quarantined seafarers, as they struggle to survive the crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Dario Alampay Jr., chairman of the Joint Manning Group (JMG), said the biggest associations of manning agencies in the country have gathered to seek President Duterte’s help, as they face the risk of collapse if they would be left to shoulder the huge financial cost of helping quarantined seafarers.

“Mr. President, we beg you to save the sea-based industry and protect the employment of the 600,000 Filipino seafarers by approving the inclusion of our requested funds of P3.5 billion to Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)’s supplemental budget under the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,’” he said in a letter signed by the presidents of 10 other manning agencies.

Aside from the JMG, other affected manning associations include the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (Amosup), Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment Inc. and Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines.

“The industry will be forever grateful for your favorable action in this urgent appeal for help,” they said.

The P3.5-billion supplemental budget would cover Covid-19 testing for 135,000 returning crew and 135,000 joining crew from June to August 2020; quarantine costs; transportation to the province; and refund of quarantine costs since March. It will also cover the transport expenses of joining seafarers from the provinces to Manila.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, in his reply letter dated May 6, 2020, said about 23,000 seafarers were given P10,000 cash assistance through the DoLE-AKAP program. He would ask the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to pay or subsidize the cost of the Covid-19 tests. But there was no mention on the fund requests of manning groups.

Since March, the manning agencies have shouldered the cost of lodging, meals and domestic transport of seafarers for the quarantine period that range from 14 to 50 days.

When the crew change season opens, about 135,000 seafarers would return from June to August requiring about 45,000 quarantine rooms per month. Same lodging needs are also required for about 135,000 replacement crew every month.

“Foreign principals strongly objected and refused to shoulder the quarantine costs. Manning agencies cannot pay the quarantine costs if the principals would not pay,” Alampay said.

“If Congress or DoE would not approve all or part of the fund needed, we strongly request that OWWA utilize the funds contributed by the principals for seafarers, amounting to more than P6 billion to cover the above costs,” he said.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said he wanted to ask Congress for budget allocation to support our seafarers. “We are in constant talks with the JMG and Amosup, as well as other manning organizations to discuss this important matter,” Cacdac said.

The sea-based industry contributes close to $7 billion in remittances in 2019 from the employment of about 600,000 Filipino seafarers. Support industries such as maritime schools, training centers, medical clinics, travel agencies and crew gears suppliers also contribute to the industry.