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DMW pushes for declaration of Red Sea, Gulf of Aden as war-like zone, vows to protect Pinoy seamen's right to refuse sailing

DMW pushes for declaration of Red Sea, Gulf of Aden as war-like zone, vows to protect Pinoy seamen's right to refuse sailing
Aaron Recuenco Mar 20, 2024

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) will tap social media and other means of communications to protect the rights of Filipino seafarers to refuse sailing in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which it said, must be declared as war-like zone following the series of missile attacks of Houthi rebels, the recent incident led to the death of two Pinoy seamen.

Aside from messaging apps, DMW officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said they will also distribute hard copies to manning agencies in the Philippines and will open hotlines in order for the department to assert the Filipino seafarers rights not to sail to the two areas in the Middle East.

“The Maritime Industry Tripartite Council (MITC) recognizes the seafarers rights to refuse sailing under the two International Bargaining Forum (IBF) resolutions for the high risks areas,” said Cacdac in a press briefing on Wednesday, March 20.

“In this regard at the DMW, we affirm this seafarers’ right to refuse sailing upon knowledge of the ships’ intention to navigate or pass the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden,” he added.

Cacdac explained that the downloadable forms in relation to the right to refuse sailing will be made available on DMW websites while a hard copy will be brought to the manning agencies in order for Filipino seafarers to fill it out before their deployment.

He said they also recognized that Filipinos seafarers may find it complicated to fill the forms up and as such, he said hotlines will be make available to them in order for the DMW to know if they would avail of that right once they are informed that their respective ships would navigate or pass by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

In this way, Cacdac said Filipino seafarers who would decide not to join navigation in the two areas would be allowed to disembark in the nearest port.

In pushing to protect Filipino seafarers, Cacdac cited at least two missile attack incidents that put Filipino seafarers in harm's way, the recent involving the True Confidence cargo ship on March 6 that left two Filipino seafarers dead and at least three others injured.

The cadavers of the two Filipinos are yet to be recovered from the cargo ship.

“Seafarers lives are more precious than cargos, seafarers' families and seafarers' and families are more precious than the commerce that goes on in the area, the cargos that those ships carry,” said Cacdac.

While Filipino seafarers have adequate training, Cacdac emphasized that they are not trained in war-like scenarios like soldiers or personnel of the Philippine Navy.

War-like zone

Cacdac said the DMW also strongly supports the position of the MITC to declare the southern Red Sea and the Gulf Aden as war-like zones amid the series of missile attacks in the area.

In December last year, the Philippine government, through the DMW, pushed for the declaration of the same areas as high-risk areas. This was followed by another position stipulated by the Philippine government in February.

“We know that the IBF discussions are underway to declare and hopefully they do declare the area as a war-like zone,” said Cacdac.

Once the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are declared as a war-like zone, Cacdac said it will empower the MITC to strongly urge the ship owners to divert their voyages and avoid passing to the area,” said Cacdac.

On the part of the DMW, he said the DMW would require ship owners and manning agencies to register their respective ships that would pass by the two areas.

“Failure to register any ship to the area will be under sanctions in accordance with the DMW rules,” said Cacdac, referring to the Overseas Welfare Monitoring System where online registration would be required.

No discrimination

Cacdac also assured that they will make sure that Filipino seafarers who would refuse deployment on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden would not be discriminated against by ship owners and manning agencies.

He said ship owners and manning agencies will be made to understand that the right to refuse sailing is a traditional right of every seafarer across the world— thus, must be respected.