Taking a proactive step to ensure and intensify the protection of Filipino seafarers from the perils of sea piracy, the Department of Labor and Employment has embarked on developing a national action plan on anti-piracy education and training.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said the Philippine government is party to a memorandum of cooperation on maritime counter-piracy training and education with the US forged on July 31 last year as an offshoot of the Somalian piracy incidents that have become prevalent since 2006. The DOLE is the lead agency in implementing the said memorandum.
Baldoz disclosed that the national action plan will not only be exclusively on counter-piracy measures, but would also have components on traumatic psycho-social counseling to hostaged seafarers and their next-of-kins.
Since piracy attacks on vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden gained international attention, 46 vessels with Filipino crew have already fell victim to bandits demanding millions of dollars in ransom. A total of 538 Filipino seafarers were manning the said vessels.
Latest data revealed that six vessels are still under negotiation for the release of captive crew including 81 Filipino seafarers.
Baldoz said that while the Somalian piracy is a global menace, the Philippine government has taken aggressive measures in cooperation with the US and other international organizations to address the piracy issues.
“The Somalian piracy problem requires a concerted effort from the international community to finally deter it from happening again. On the part of the Philippines, we have initiated the establishment of safety and welfare protection measures responsive to the situation and to the conditions of our affected seafarers,” she stressed.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an attached agency of the DOLE, has already issued Governing Board resolutions from 2008 to the current year that declared high risk areas for our seafarers as well as the parallel benefits entitled to those passing through said high risk areas.
The POEA Governing Board is October 7, 2008, issued board resolution no. 4, series of 2008, that declared ‘high risk’ areas along seafarers’ route and that seafarers passing within the declared ‘high risk’ areas shall receive double the amount of their basic wage, overtime pay, and leave pay. They shall also be entitled to a double amount of compensation and benefits in cases of death, injury, or illness while within the said areas.
More significantly, the resolution orders the Master to inform the seafarer passing through high risk areas as the voyage is known.
The Governing Board also issued other resolutions relevant to the Somalia piracy issue such as GBR No. 6 (adopting the 5th revision of the IBF High Risk Area for a definition of a new high risk zone); GBR No.5 (allowing the deployment of Filipino seafarers on board vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden on certain conditions); and GBR No.3 (extending the high risk zone coordinates as defined by the IMEC).
On January 28 this year, the POEA issued memorandum circular no. 02, series of 2010, which required seafarers to be deployed to undergo training on practical measures to avoid, deter, or delay piracy attacks as a requirement for the processing of their contract. This, however, will be at no cost to the seafarers.
Baldoz also said that a tripartite summit was held at the start of the year which was meant to address piracy issues. Summit participants agreed on adopting measures and concerted approach to help deter piracy-related incidents embodied in a Communique.
Among these, the DOLE shall expand the DOLE Crisis Monitoring Committee’s functions and expand its membership to include representations of all the tripartite sectors. The committee is under the DOLE Office of Maritime Affairs.
Through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the DOLE shall also provide counseling and other support services for seafarers who are victims of piracy.
The measures also include the convening of regular consultation meetings by the Office of Maritime Affairs with industry stakeholders with the purpose of reviewing and updating the progress of implementation of said Communique.
The Philippine government, in cooperation with other governments, shall also make aggressive representation to the United Nations to address piracy issues. Likewise, the Communique calls on other concerned sectors in the national and international communities to support efforts in addressing the problem.
Baldoz said discussions are on-going between the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Washington and the US’ Department of Transportation regarding the implementation of the provisions in the memorandum of cooperation.