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Filipino seafarers: Raise the flag for them!

By: ATTY. DENNIS GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | June 26,2024 - 06:28 AM

A special  flag raising ceremony was held last June 25, 2024 at the Rizal Monument in Luneta in celebration of the Day of the Seafarers in honor of all the hard working Filipino mariners.

The 2010 Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) held in Manila adopted a resolution establishing the Day of the Seafarer every June 25.

Its stated purpose is to recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

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The resolution encourages governments, shipping organizations, companies, shipowners and all other parties concerned to duly and appropriately promote the Day of the Seafarer and take action to celebrate it meaningfully.

The hashtag #SafetyTipsAtSea looks at the seafarers’ contribution to making the maritime sector a safer workplace.

The flag ceremony organized by SeaFam pays tribute to the Filipino seafarers wherein deployment in 2023 reached 578,626 with the corresponding dollar remittances amounting to US$6,852,362.00.

In terms of deployment, the records from them Department of Migrant Workers showed that the total number of Filipino seafarers deployed overseas reached 376,663 in 2017; 337,502 in 2018; 507,730 in 2019; 217,223 in 2020; 345.52 in 2021; 385,239 in 2022 and 578,626 in 2023.

The sea-based sector’s remittance comprises 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: US$6,870,827,000 in 2017; US$6,139,512,000 in 2018; US$6,539,246,000 in 2019; US$6,353,522,000 in 2020; US$6,545,002,000 in 2021; US$6,715,880,000 in 2022 and US$6,852,362 in 2023.

The data showed that remittances increased in 2018 by US$731,315,000, then increased in 2019 by US$399,734,000, then decreased in 2020 by US$185,724,000, then increased in 2021 by US$191,480,000, then increased in 2022 by US$172,878,000, then increased by US$136,482.00 in 2023.

The hashtag is related to the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day that will take place on September 26, 2024 which is “Navigating the future: safety first!”

The 2024 World Maritime Day theme reflects the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to enhance maritime safety and security, in tandem with the protection of the marine environment, whilst ensuring its regulatory development process safely anticipates the fast pace of technological change and innovation.

2024 also marks 50 years since the adoption of the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)  Convention.

SOLAS is an important international treaty concerning the safety of merchant ships. It ensures that ships registered by signatory States comply with minimum safety standards in construction, equipment and operation of ships.

Flag States are responsible for ensuring that ships under their flag comply with its requirements, and a number of certificates are prescribed in the Convention as proof that this has been done.

The tragic sinking of Titanic on April 15, 1912 redefined the concept of maritime safety and led to the adoption of SOLAS Convention in 1914.

The 1914 version was superseded by SOLAS 1929, SOLAS 1948, SOLAS 1960 (the first adopted under the auspices of the IMO) and SOLAS 1974.

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.

Stella Maris 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.

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.

This year’s NSD is set on September 29, 2024 with the  theme “Marinong Filipino: Ligtas na Paglalayag!”.

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.

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the Seafarers’ Division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan Law Offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)

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