Manila, Philippines — The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Robert A Empedrad together with Ms. Cristina Garcia, President of the Association of Licensed Manning Agencies Maritime Group (ALMA), led the welcoming of 289 Filipino seafarers who were previously stranded in various parts of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday, 15 June 2021, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Administrator Empedrad and Ms. Garcia were joined by Capt Jeffrey P Solon, MARINA Deputy Administrator for Planning, and Mr. Paul Galvez of MARLOW Navigation.

This chartered flight from Dubai is part of the ALMA’s initiatives to assist distressed seafarers who have been affected by lockdowns abroad. Although many of these seafarers have only been stranded for 2-3 months, some have reported having been stranded for more than 4 months already.

Following the travel restrictions imposed in India, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Oman, and Nepal last 01 May 2021, which was further extended until 30 June 2021, the ALMA Maritime Group organized non-Philippine government repatriation efforts following the implementation of the IATF Resolution 119 issued last 03 June 2021.

“With ALMA members alone, we can already satisfy the minimum requirement of 150 passengers per flight, but we also want to help out other non-members who have seafarers in UAE, which is why we collaborated with them as well,” says Garcia.

“Proper coordination with relevant government agencies and affected manning agencies for our succeeding repatriation efforts are being done. We want to end our seafarers’ ordeal and bring them home to their families. They deserve to have a much-needed rest after a tough time serving on board ships.” Garcia further added.

“We welcome you back to your homeland. We have always dedicated our thoughts and prayers for you all while you were in foreign lands.” Administrator Empedrad said to the repatriated seafarers. “I am grateful for the ALMA’s continued dedication in helping ensure that our seafarers come back home safe and sound.” He added, citing that the MARINA continues to push forward numerous initiatives for seafarers who have been hardly hit by the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Agency is now gearing up to accelerate the processing of seafarer-related documents through the automation of its systems. In addition to this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), MARINO Partylist, and the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), promising the construction of a 300-bed capacity Seafarers’ Dormitel. The signing of the MOU will be witnessed by the MARINA and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) this coming 17 June 2021.

The 289 repatriated Filipino seafarers are now undergoing their mandatory quarantine at an undisclosed facility in Metro Manila. On the 7th day of their quarantine period, they will be subjected to a mandatory swab test. Seafarers who will test positive will be transferred to a pre-assigned isolation facility. Meanwhile, seafarers who will yield a negative test result will have to complete the remainder of their mandatory 14-day quarantine, before appropriate arrangements will be made for their travel to their respective residences.