Government Must Not Just Cruise: REFLECTIONS ON CRUISE FATE
When readership was getting jaded on Covid-19 news, cruise ship worker Mariah Jocson was found dead inside cabin, apparently of suicide. Once more, bad news sells good --- this, opens Pandora’s box or ushers a new realization, an epiphany.
Avior Marine Director Joost Mes, President of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Phils, recalls overseas workers making sacrifices and bringing back hard-earned foreign currency to the country and their extended families.
When cruise ship owners bring the stranded ‘Heroes’ back home, the country turns less welcoming. Despite arriving with a 14-day quarantine and negative Covid tests, it can take weeks before they are allowed to travel home. Then, local government units (LGUs) insist on repeating the process of quarantine and testing and waiting for results before they face stigma from the community.
Mes feels “More must be possible with common sense, mutual trust between local government units and applying a bit of humanity.”
Ruth Emmerink, Consul General at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Miami agrees “It is heart-breaking, indeed.” Netherlands is in the lead creating a safe corridor for seafarers and others now following suit.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin, Jr. tweeted 28-year old Mariah Jocson took her life onboard Harmony of the Seas, docked in Barbados, where crew detained awaiting PH repeatedly rescinded repatriation. Locsin underscored Filipino resilience is no excuse to stretch them to breaking point, Di sila goma; tao sila. (They are not rubber; they are persons).
Locsin explains the deliberate confusion is that they thought 14 day quarantine starts from the time ships dock. It was clear at IATF that it starts from their clearance in foreign port + sea voyage. “Some people are just dead set to make them move into quarantine ashore.”
Of the eight Covid-19 free cruise ships in Manila bay, their Filipino crews were quarantined in the sea voyage. IATF unanimously adopted the 3-point resolution addressing this situation—“a halfwit reduced it to one paragraph which explains why the BI is confused”.
Sec. Locsin blames the Board of Quarantine over overstaying tens of thousands of overseas Filipinos long ago tested negative “… in suspiciously picked motels and hotels.”
Government is caught pants down on the huge volume of repatriated because of lull in compilation of statistics on seabased workers. The latest from the Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is only for the first semester of 2018; for Top Ten Types of Vessels, data is only for 2013 and 2014. Passenger vessels are always in second place; these figures may help in protocols on repatriations.
The convenient excuse we are on a confrontation with a novel but deadly disease, on protocols yet experimental as data and experience are insufficiently collected, collated, checked and cross-checked.
Filipino seafarers leaving a cruise ship in a Phil seaport must comply:
* Pre-disembarkation: LMA/Shipping Representative to identify the seafarers who will be signing off vessels and submit list to PPA; PPA to issue travel clearance for docking in Philippine seaport; LMA/Shipping Representative, OWWA to arrange for the commercial or chartered flights and/or land transport of seafarers to their point of hire pursuant to MLC 2006 in coordination with OWWA.
* Arrival in Philippines Seaports: BOQ/PCG to conduct RT-PCR Testing for COVID-19 of seafarers; Seafarer to wait for test results onboard; PCG to distribute results and BOQ clearance to seafarers; LMA/Shipping Representative, OWWA to disembark and proceed to point of destination if results are negative; if positive, proceed for treatment. Transportation requirements must be pre-arranged by the LMAs and OWWA.
Pres. Duterte banged the table to rush the release of Covid-19 test results of over 24,000 returning OFWs languishing in quarantine facilities for them to reunite with their families, goading DOLE, OWWA and DOH to process the documents of OFWs and seafarers who are stuck in Metro Manila as they await for the release of their test results and certification.
Duterte allowed the IATF to use government funds and all modes of transportation to bring home the OFWs to their hometowns, even aircraft and vessels of the Armed Forces.
Presidential Adviser on Peace Process and NTF Covid 19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. is cautious with 27,000 already in Manila and 42,000 arriving shortly (by May and June).
Defense Secretary Lorenzana, Transport Secretary Tugade, the MARINA and OWWA are asked to pitch in. Some 30,000 were tested, the Red Cross (PRC) issued 22,432 results where 465 are positive with the virus. LGUs neither have the expertise nor facilities to care for the 465.
But those tested negatives are slowly being transported home like the 20,000 DOLE claims to have facilitated back to their home towns. Some cruise lines are amenable to dock at local ports other than Manila, nearer final destinations of the repatriated.
The Crew Center was organized by veteran seafarers to be informed and heard, to secure resources or relief for challenged mariners. It reacts against the over 20 ships floating on Manila Bay for days and months, crews eager to join their families while their families are so agitated why they cannot, yet.
Other nationalities are also stranded by the snail pace of the Philippine Government, embarrassing Filipinos with their peers in communal misery.
Indians on the Marella Explorer are bitter with repatriation flights getting cancelled one after the other as they wait off the coast of Southampton. They have been stuck for three months on good care of the company but on insistent refusal of the Indian Government to admit them.
Asks a crew: should a seafarer can no longer take the stress and commits suicide, who shall take the blame? The Government, the company or the family?
Costa Cruises Indian crew members (of Costa Venezia) face the same repatriation problems.
They have been waiting since April as management changes plans every three days. The latest was dividing them by batches, the first to transit to China where there is no connection to India.
Pullmantur crew received the "Sign On Employment Addendum" for the crew onboard which reads: “This notice will confirm that due to a change in the operation of your vessel, the employment contract will change from Pullmantur Ship Management Ltd. to Celebrity Cruises Inc. effective immediately upon your agreement and signature.” Do it or do it now.
Australian crew from Royal Caribbean have arrived home and are completing 14-day isolation in a hotel. Even with the “very long 80+ days quarantine,” they compliment Royal Caribbean have been “fantastic” with its onboard management teams. 60 Australians that were sent home in two batches, from Barbados via Heathrow.
30 Hondurans, 32 Salvadorans and about 10 Dominicans have had three uneventful meetings with the Ship Captain while Argentinians, their peers, are repatriated back from Miami to Argentina. Desperate, these blacks from the Caribbean offered to pay their own air tickets, with Panama, Mexico and Miami open for direct flights to Honduras.
Two of them have hallucinations, ugly nightmares, and violet impulses to destroy things on the ship. Just wait, patiently says the MSC company.
242 Indonesian crew of the Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4, Mein Schiff 5, and Mein Schiff 6 cruise ships left from Hamburg to the Ngurah Rai Intl Airport at Bali, landing on the resort island on Thursday, 14:07 local time. Indonesian Ambassador to Germany, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said this is the last repatriation and all tested negative --- Alhamdulillah (thanks to God).
As of May 19, 2020, the Indonesian Government has facilitated the return of 99,543 Indonesian citizens from abroad, migrant workers in Malaysia and Indonesian sailors on cruise ships.
Devil and blue sea.
President Duterte: Filipinos are citizens with Constitutional rights to travel, abroad or anywhere, and return home after working there.
Some LGUs are so zealous, they protest the re-entry of those coming from abroad to guard against infection of the community --- also cater to the hysteria and stigma spewed by voters.
Duterte placed in a compromise: they undergo another 14-day quarantine period and pass the Covid test. Then, LGUs refusing OFW reintegration to the home community will be dealt with the full force of the national government.
The President also harped on utang na loob (debt of gratitude), reminding all on the major impact of their remittances to the national economy, their sacrifices to build or rebuild families to better status in life --- while they struggle alone and lonesome abroad.
Due to cruise terminal closures in Copenhagen, local government mandates and consultations with CLIA & the CAC, Celebrity Cruise extended its global suspension for select sailings. Canada also restricted cruise ships carrying over 100 guests until Oct. 31. Celebrity’s 2020 sailings to Canada and Alaska, Canada/New England, Hawaii and a few repositioning cruises were cancelled to return to service about August 1.
With travel and port restrictions, Holland America Line is extending its pause of cruise operations and cancelling additional departures from the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 2020, as well as select Hawaii itineraries for early 2021.
Local cruise is emerging in Scandinavia. While Norway continues to restrict international travellers, SeaDream Yacht Club and Hurtigruten, have announced they will resume sailing in June for Norway and broader Scandinavian communities depending on travel restrictions.
SeaDream suspended its Mediterranean voyages through the end of August. One yacht has been relocated to Norway to sail on June 20th and the other yacht on June 27th to cater to the high demand.
Hurtigruten, by mid-June, it will gradually restart operations on the scheduled Bergen-Kirkenes–Bergen voyages along the Norwegian coast.
Cruise ships bottled up on Manila Bay do have foreigners interested to experience the charm and wow of Boracay, Palawan resorts and thousands of virginal beaches. Super-imposed is Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Gray, who earned the crown with amazing answers over contestants from 93 countries.
"I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is poor and it's very sad. And I have always taught myself to look for beauty in the faces of the children and to be grateful… we can have an amazing world where negativity cannot grow and prosper, and children will have smiles on their faces."
Cuba takes risks.
She is planning to welcome tourists with Covid-19 tests and limit their contact with locals and confining tourists at well-established coastal resorts. Havana and the rest of the country are reserved for local tourism.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel will gradually open up the economy in the next weeks, with focus on recovering tourism dollars, the lifeblood of Cuba’s economy earning US$3.3-billion in 2018.
The island is just over 11 million, registered its first cases of Covid 19 from three Italian tourists in March. So far, Cuba has reported 2,219 COVID-19 cases, with 84 deaths.
Domestic road trips may be the key to the recovery of Philippine tourism, starting with short-distance road trips, with families and travellers of the same preferences of destinations, believes Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon.
The tourism industry is among the worst hit sectors by the coronavirus pandemic due to travel bans and restrictions on leisure activities. For the first 3 months of the year, Bengzon said revenue from foreign tourist arrivals dropped by 35%, with just PhP85-billion generated.