MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Marino Party-list Representative Sandro Gonzalez have welcomed the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, ordering the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to extend assistance to stranded seafarers abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a televised public address Monday night, the chief executive of the Marino party-list noted the woeful conditions of Filipino seafarers whose ships were prevented from docking in some countries as a safety measure against the deadly virus. President Duterte ordered diplomatic officials to look into the matter and act immediately.

According to Gonzalez, this is a welcome development as Filipino seafarers both locally and overseas have been experiencing the ill effects of the pandemic.

“I thank the President for recognizing the urgency of addressing the problems of our seafarers. They have been dealing with the effects of the pandemic since its outbreak early this year. Our office received distress calls from seafarers themselves and their families and relatives, narrating to us their condition in some ships overseas. In retrospect, some seafarers who are awaiting their deployment on ships also got stranded in Metro Manila as their employment got halted indefinitely. We forwarded all these concerns to government agencies, including DFA, for appropriate action,” Gonzalez shared.

MARINA Administrator Robert Empedrad said that his Agency has been continuing to implement the best and practicable strategies in dealing with the adverse effects of the pandemic for those greatly affected seafarers who are currently stranded.

“Aside from detailed procedures and health and safety protocols for the repatriation and the conduct of crew change, in authorized domestic and international ports in the country, we also communicated recently to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the Philippines Guidelines for the establishment of the Philippines Green Lane to facilitate the speedy and safe travels of seafarers, including their safe and swift disembarkation, and crew change during this crisis. MARINA has likewise extended the validity of seafarer-related certificates until the end of the year,” VAdm Empedrad added.

As budget deliberations are ongoing in the House of Representatives, the lawmaker emphasized the need to pass legislation beneficial to seafarers.

MARINA, at present, seeks funding for three projects, namely the building of seafarers’ dormitory, additional support for facilities for crew change, and allocation of P5 million for the PH 2021 Candidature to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council.

“I strongly support MARINA’s programs and projects for seafarers. The time is ripe to pass measures that protect the well-being of seafarers if this kind of crisis happens again in the future. The seafarers’ dormitory, for one, will provide shelter for the seafarers as they await their overseas deployment,” Gonzalez shared.

Both organizations have also agreed to strengthen their partnership and continue their discussions particularly on ways to modernize the organizational structure of the MARINA, as well as to accelerate the enactment into law of various legislative measures that seek to advance the country’s maritime industry and promote the general welfare of Filipino seafarers and other maritime professionals.