Sat. Jul 24th, 2021

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go recognized the contributions of Filipino merchant marines to the country’s economic development as he personally took time out last June 25 to celebrate with them the Day of Seafarers in Intramuros, Manila.

“Sa 11th anniversary po ng Day of the Seafarers, we acknowledge the unique difficulties that has befallen your industry because of the Covid-19 pandemic, “ Senator Go pointed out.

“Higit kumulang sampung porsyento ng ating populasyon ang nasa abroad. Mahirap po mawalay sa sariling bayan para lang buhayin ang pamilya at mabigyan ng mas magandang kinabukasan ang inyong mga anak. Bilang mambabatas, gagawin ko ang lahat upang maitaguyod ang inyong kapakanan,” Go earlier said.

To make this a reality, the senator has been expediting the passage of Senate Bill No. 2234, which aims to establish the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos. The measure, which was earlier certified as urgent by the President, was co-sponsored by Go in the Senate taking into consideration earlier bills filed on the subject matter.

The proposed department will be primarily mandated to formulate, recommend and implement national policies, plans, programs and guidelines that protect overseas Filipinos, including OFWs, as well as promote their interests and resolve issues concerning them in a timely and effective manner.

The DMWOF will be responsible for providing all relevant social and welfare services, including insurance, social work assistance and legal assistance, as well as administer reintegration and social service programs to overseas Filipinos. It shall also provide Assistance to Nationals services, especially during times of national emergencies, such as pandemic or war.

Carrying on with his message, Go said to the seafarers that as they wait for the creation of DMWOF, his office is ready to listen and assist them with their concerns. He also reassured them that the government is working hard to provide services to ensure their well-being during these difficult times.

Go earlier successfully appealed to the national government to include the overseas workers, including the seafarers, in the A4 priority list for COVID-19 vaccination rollout. The President also approved Go’s subsequent recommendation to allocate specific brands of vaccines for OFWs which are considered ‘acceptable’ in their countries of destination and ports of entry.

Human Emergency

This was a plus-development because the International Maritime Organization IMO has chosen to make 2021 a year of action for seafarers, who are facing unprecedented hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of men and women stranded on ships for months beyond their original contracts, unable to be repatriated due to national travel restrictions. A similar number of seafarers are unable to join ships and earn a living.

This crew change crisis, which has been ongoing for nearly a year, is a humanitarian emergency. Throughout the year, the IMO theme also put the spotlight on other issues related to the human element of shipping, including the safety and security of life on board ships, seafarers’ well-being, and the importance of ensuring an appropriately trained and qualified workforce, ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of digitalization and automation. 

Meanwhile, Senator Go also offered additional assistance to the seafarers with medical concerns and advised them that they can visit any of the 121 Malasakit Centers nationwide. These centers will provide convenient access to medical assistance programs to cover their hospital and medical related expenses.

To further help struggling migrant workers, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Agriculture extended alternative livelihood assistance to qualified seafarer beneficiaries.

DOLE will give a start-up capital to the qualified recipients, while DA will introduce micro-agribusiness, such as vegetable or fruit stand, rice mill, coconut juice kiosk, and many others. SOVEREIGNPH

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