MOSS ON THE GREEN LANE
by Coca H. Strobar
Activism in the maritime industry is reflected by a press conference (via zoom app) on Saving the Seafaring Industry sponsored jointly by the Trade Union Congress of the Phil (TUCP) and the Joint Manning Group (JMG) last August 13th.
Six panellists led discussions:
- TUCP Partylist Cong. Democrito Mendoza, Chairperson, House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs
- Mr. Michael Democrito Mendoza, National President, Associated Philippine Seafarers’ Union (APSU)
- Atty. Noli Partido, Legal Head, Associated Marine Officers and Seafarers’ Union of the Phil (AMOSUP)
- JMG’s Mr. Roy Alampay, Co-Chair
- JMG’s Mr. Ericson Marquez, Co-Chair
- Mr. Joe Kato, JMG Director
Officers of the two organizations were linked; so are maritime stakeholders and media.
Director Kato lit the rockets with the claim the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has verbally agreed, in principle, on the first week of July to sponsor the costs of quarantine for the seafarers. Some P5-billion was committed; projected based on the “P180,000 rough estimation is P180,000 x P3,000 per day that is cost of lodging and food x 5 days so it came to more or less P2.7-billion.”
JMG wishes this amount be obligated for seafarers. OWWA disagrees quoting its policy of first-come, first served since it has to address contingencies anywhere in the world, be it land-based nor sea-based OFWs.
Marino World Publisher Lyn Bacani asked JMG to comment on the responsibilities of the seafarers and licensed manning agencies (LMAs) as laid out by Joint Circular 1 of July 2, Series of 2020, signed by six department Secretaries and 12 heads of major agencies.
Ms. Bacani was referring to Chapter III, Section 2 (c) where LMAs must provide “… for appropriate COVID-19 testing to its seafarers, as well as meals, accommodation and transportation from point of hire to intended destination, as conditions require, provided that, in the case of inbound and repatriated Filipino seafarers the cost of the RT-PCR testing shall be charged to the PhilHealth.”
Alampay partially shifted focus by claiming even Cong. Mendoza also believes this Green Lane is good on paper but hard to implement. On the asunder of Bacani that help from Government is “lumalabo” (getting muddled) due to corruption, Alampay keeps faith the Government will be true to its words as shown by its creation of the Green Lane.
Bacani also wants to know whether additional funds would be appropriated, whether costs incurred by seafarers will be shouldered by OWWA as it does for land-based OFWs.
Cong. Mendoza says even House Speaker Cayetano is aware of requests P3-b of the planned P5-b increase be spent for seafarers. But he is against touching the P18-b Trust Fund. Instead, he will ask for accounting on the expenditures of current funds.
As of August 12, the Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) says over 136,000 OFWs have been transported to their respective home provinces.
In turn, OWWA ensures the OFWs are provided with assistance which includes accommodation, food, transportation, and COVID testing upon their arrival.
DOLE has also been extending a one-time P10,000 cash aid under AKAP to OFWs affected by the pandemic, both on-site and those stranded in the country.
The Philippine Green Lane for Seafarers shall facilitate the speedy and safe travel of seafarers, including their safe and swift disembarkation, and crew change during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It shall also facilitate the creation of controlled travel corridor to open the Philippines for people-to-people and economic exchange and stimulate the economy.
The circular helps control the risk of spreading the coronavirus during crew change or repatriation by managing the movement of seafarers travelling by ship or plane.
It enjoins to follow International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO) protocols on COVID-19 as it outlines the minimum standards and procedures to observed by all seafarers, shipping companies (ship operators and ship owners), licensed manning agencies, airlines, and all other similar entities involved in the process of facilitating travel for the purpose of ship crew changes.
APSU’s Mendoza calls on Government to step up on:
- Revoking DOLE Memo 211-A where Government provides for the board and lodging of land-based workers but not those sea-based.
- Setting a larger amount in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act for repatriation costs, for board and lodging, testing, and for the processing of travel for seafarers who have live contracts to board ships.
Atty. Partido says AMOSUP hopes that everybody in the industry will work together, in making the industry survive, in making our seafarers feel they are not neglected. AMOSUP Pres. Conrado Oca sees seafarers as “our heroes, and it will also redound to the benefit of our industry and the economy.”
(Elsewhere in this issue, Mr. Joost Mes takes a deeper incision on the Green Lane project.)