Press Release
May 1, 2009

As a Labor Day gift to a vital workforce

Senator Edgardo J. Angara today seeks to improve the country's maritime industry through better educational curriculum, employment system and post-employment support for Filipino seafarers and their families amid a series of hijack incidents perpetrated by Somali pirates which involve Filipino seafarers.

"The Philippines remains to be the biggest source of seafarers in the global market, both for officers and ratings. This phenomenon occurs in the context of continuing efforts by global shipping companies to cut costs, rationalize crewing, and comply with, among others, international conventions on maritime labor and protection of the environment," said Angara.

He added, "We've got to improve the competitiveness of our maritime industry the context of growing global competition. A good start would be to come up with a definitive policy that will put together provisions on seafarers scattered in various laws."

Angara recently filed a bill providing for a Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers which aims to improve the economic and social status of Filipino seafarers. The said piece of legislation is considered a major breakthrough in Philippine maritime industry as the demand for RP seafarers increased in January this year.

Department of Labor and Employment statistics show that 260,084 Filipino seafarers were deployed abroad in 2007, sending home a total of US$1.589 billion for only the first ten months. This marks the peak of Filipino maritime workers employment in the history, breaking the yearly average of 250,000.

"The challenge now lies for the Philippines to maintain its dominant presence vis-a-vis competition posed by emerging sources of labor such as China, Ukraine, India, Indonesia, Poland and Greece," he said, "this can be done only by creating a polished set of policies and rights."

DFA statistics showed that for 2008 alone a total of 17 vessels with Filipino crewmen were hijacked by Somali pirates. These incidents involved 208 Filipino seamen, of which 74 have been released.

"Our drive for global competitiveness comes with the inherent responsibility to safeguard the rights of our seafarers. Top-priority should be ensuring their welfare and protection, of course, taking into consideration their families left in the Philippines. Measures ensuring their protection should also be highlighted," added Angara.

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