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Filipino fishermen's group marks one-year anniversary in Nanfang'ao, Taiwan

Filipino fishermen's group marks one-year anniversary in Nanfang'ao
William Yen 03/19/2022

CNA photo March 19, 2022
Yilan, March 19 (CNA) Filipino migrant fishermen in Nanfang'ao held a celebratory mass and basketball tournament Saturday to mark the first birthday of a seafarer's association founded to tackle rights violations and other labor issues.

Around 130 Filipino fishermen, based mainly in the major coastal fishing port of Nanfang'ao, Yilan County, have joined the chapter of the Philippine Seafarers (Fishers) Association in Taiwan (PSAT) since its establishment last year.

Filipino fisherman Jerald Bautista, who attended the celebration on Saturday, said it was important that migrant workers were informed of their rights.

Bautista said he had once been rejected from opening a post office bank account because his ARC did not have a Chinese name, adding that after months of pleading with his broker to help him, his broker kept delaying his request.

Lyndon Malinao Bucol, a 40-year-old member of PSAT, said that since the establishment of the association, Filipino fishermen in the area had become more united. "Even though we are from different places in the Philippines - some are Ilocanos, Bisayas, Ilongos, Tagalog - the truth is we are gladly united."

Jay Decano, 35, a Filipino fisherman and secretary of PSAT, told CNA that going out to sea for sometimes a week at a time was often challenging and that holding social sporting events helped maintain the mental health of association members.

"It's not only about work, work, work. It's important we have events like this to relax," Decano said, referring to Saturday's basketball tournament, which was followed by a hillside mass in the evening led by Father Hendrikus Arianto Ukat of Indonesia.

Ukat, with support from Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet and volunteers at the Migrant Workers' Concern Desk of Saint Christopher's in Taipei, worked alongside the Catholic seafarer's network Stella Maris to organize the founding of PSAT last year.

Leoni Pascual Ngo of the Migrant Workers' Concern Desk, told CNA that the organization had helped to establish the PSAT in hopes of forming a mutual support network for Filipino fishermen in Nanfang'ao.

"They have to learn to empower themselves so that they can defend and be aware of their rights here in Taiwan," Ngo said.

Ngo explained that the organization sought to help migrants workers navigate bureaucratic hurdles like those faced by Bautista in addition to fighting for their rights when dealing with abusive employers.

The organization helped dozens of migrant fishermen and their families in the wake of the infamous Nanfang'ao Bridge collapse in 2019, which killed three Indonesians and three Filipinos and left many others homeless.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Stella Maris and MWCD also managed to secure facemasks for migrant fishermen during a worldwide shortage by donations from private and government entities.