Press Release
June 27, 2021

In celebration of the Day of Seafarers, Bong Go vows untiring service to protect the welfare of migrant workers and overseas Filipinos amid the global crisis

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go recognized the invaluable contributions of Filipino seafarers to the country's economic development as he personally celebrated with them the Day of Seafarers on Friday, June 25 in Intramuros, Manila.

"Happy anniversary po sa inyo sa lahat ng ating marino, sa inyong pagdiriwang po ng 11th anniversary ng Day of the Seafarers. Sa lahat po ng mga seafarers, ipaglalaban ko po kayo," Go said.

"Kami ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte, handa po kaming magserbisyo sa inyo sa abot ng aming makakaya....that is why the Duterte Administration, through the Maritime Industry Authority under the Department of Transportation, has been working hard to provide concrete plans of action to ensure that you are looked after in these difficult and challenging times," he added.

Go reiterated his concern for the plight of more than ten million overseas Filipinos, including seafarers, and their families amid the ongoing pandemic, as well as other crisis situations happening around the world.

"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 maipaglaban ang inyong kapakanan," Go earlier said.

The Senator has been pushing for the immediate 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 he also authored.

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.

Go echoed President Duterte's call to hasten the passage of the proposed law as this will provide a more efficient, whole-of-government approach in promoting the welfare and interest of overseas Filipinos. "Isipin niyo more than ten million Filipinos po ang overseas Filipinos, OFWs na wala man lang sariling departamentong nakatutok sa kanila. Kaya kahit saan po nananawagan, sa Facebook, minsan po sa radyo humihingi ng tulong," he lamented.

"Ngayon, kung mayroon ng departamentong nakatutok sa kanila, iisa na lang po ang lalapitan nila, nakatutok (na) secretary-level down to regional offices 'yung nasa malayo sa ating bansa. Hindi na po sila kailangang pumunta sa Maynila -- sa iba't ibang ahensya -- dahil mayroon na ho silang departamento," he explained.

"Sabi ko po, huwag nating ipagkait sa Pilipino kung ano po 'yung nararapat sa kanila, lalong-lalo na sa ating OFWs, seafarers -- overseas Filipinos. Itinuturing nga natin silang mga bagong bayani, so bigyan natin sila ng departamentong nakatutok po sa kanila," he added.

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.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go expressed his concern for numerous Filipinos who are reluctant to get inoculated. He, then, appealed to the seafarers to take part in the vaccination program as this will further protect them against COVID-19 and allow them to continue with their livelihoods.

"Magpabakuna ho kayo, huwag ho kayong matakot sa bakuna. Ang bakuna po ang solusyon o susi para makabalik tayo sa ating normal na pamumuhay kung saan mayakap natin ang ating kapwa Pilipino," Go said.

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.

Meanwhile, 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.

On the same day, Senator Go, then, proceeded to witness the vaccination rollout to Filipino seafarers where he and his team distributed additional aid to 550 identified beneficiaries.

Go then thanked and recognized the hard work of MARINA and other concerned agencies in promoting the welfare of seafarers and other related sectors.

"Sa inyong administrator na si Sir Bob Empedrad, salamat sa inyong trabaho. Sabi nga niya kanina, marami raw siyang reforms na ginawa rito," Go said while acknowledging other officials for their untiring service.

"Sa mga seafarers, naiintindihan ko po ang trabaho ninyo, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot. Sa totoo lang po, mas nanaisin niyong dito na lang sa ating bansa kaysa mapalayo sa pamilya, malayo iniisip niyo. Pero kailangan niyo pong magtrabaho kaya pakiusap ko po sa inyo -- sa mga seafarers -- nandidiyan lang po ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat lalo na sa pagpapabakuna," Go added.

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