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Atty. Dennis Gorecho: International Day of the Seafarers

International Day of the Seafarers
Atty. Dennis Gorecho June 29, 2023

Filipino seafarers deployed in 2023 reached 489,852 with the corresponding dollar remittances amounting to $6,715,880,000.

In terms of deployment, the records from the Department of Migrant Workers and Statista showed that the total number of Filipino seafarers deployed overseas reached 376,663 in 2017; 337,502 in 2018; 469,996 in 2019; 217,223 in 2020; 345.52 in 2021; and 489,852 in 2022.

The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total OFW dollar remittances.

Records from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas indicate the sea-based sector’s remittances for the past five years: $6,870,827,000 in 2017; $6,139,512,000 in 2018; $6,539,246,000 in 2019; $6,353,522,000 in 2020; $6,545, 002,000 in 2021; and $6,715,880, 000 in 2022.

The data showed that remittances increased in 2018 by $731,315,000, then increased in 2019 by $399,734,000, then decreased in 2020 by $185,724,000, then increased in 2021 by $191,480,000, then increased in 2022 by $172,878,000.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) held a three-day Seafarers’ Expo from June 23 to 25 at the CCP Complex, Pasay City in line with the celebration of the International Day of the Seafarers.

The ITF expo featured a pocket discussion on the rights of seafarers, learning and earning opportunities in a changing maritime industry, and the works of ITF and its affiliated seafarers’ unions. The expo also educated the crew about welfare support organizations available to assist seafarers and their families.

One of the welfare societies that participated in the ITF seafarer expo is Stella Maris. It is formerly known as the Apostleship of the Sea, which is the Catholic Church’s missionary work to the peoples of the sea, particularly seafarers, whether they be on merchant, passenger, war or fishing vessels.

In the Philippines, Stella Maris is tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors the activities related to the celebration of National Seafarers Day (NSD).

Masses and prayers for the safe voyage of seafarers are traditionally part of the annual NSD, which is celebrated by virtue of Proclamation 828 by President Fidel V. Ramos on July 9, 1996 declaring August 18 as NSD. It was later moved to the last Sunday of September every year by Proclamation 1094.

The purpose of the proclamation is to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country.

Stella Maris Bishop Promoter Bishop Ruperto Santos said in a statement that in order to meaningfully celebrate International Day of the Seafarer is to adapt the 4Ps, that is, “to protect, to promote, to preserve and to pray.”

“Protect our seafarers from abuse of placement agencies and pirates; our seas from exploitation and pollution; the ships from illicit and illegal transactions.”

“Promote the rights and just interests of seafarers; the international rights and safety of ship routes; promote that ships are safe, fitting and reliable for sea journeys.”

“Preserve the human dignity and just, legal compensation of our seafarers; preserve the environmental cleanliness and respect for maritime life; and preserve, maintain seaworthiness of the ships. To preserve is to investigate and prosecute the law offenders.”

“And lastly but very important is to pray always for safety, security and successes of anything, anyone working and leaving the seaports.”

A pending legislation that stakeholders are awaiting is the passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers.

“Every Filipino seafarer deserves greater protection from abuses and violations of his or her rights and welfare. This bill is for all Seafarers who have been called modern day heroes because of their economic contributions through remittances, and most importantly because of their sacrifices in being homesick to give a comfortable life to their loved ones,” according to Senator Risa Hontiveros as one of the principal authors.

Senators Hontiveros and Raffy Tulfo had expressed their opposition to the inclusion of an escrow provision in the magna carta, which in essence will have significant impact on the “immediately final and executory” nature of labor decisions.

Hontiveros added that every Filipino seafarer’s right should be protected in accordance with the International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 and most especially the Philippine Constitution.

In 2010, the Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) adopted a resolution establishing the Day of the Seafarers every June 25. It recognized the valuable contribution of seafarers to international trade and world economy.