Despite the serious blow Filipino seafarers suffered from the global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade assured the world that Filipinos will continue manning vessels.
Tugade said the Philippines remains committed as a partner in global maritime activities.
In a virtual meeting during the celebration of the World Maritime Day 2020 which is a side event to the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the DoTr chief emphasized the importance of maritime trade and shipping activities particularly during critical periods such as the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Tugade said Filipino seafarers will not falter in their professionalism and dedication despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic.
“Filipino seafarers carry with them the values of dedication, resiliency, discipline, and excellence. The country will continue to strengthen itself as a maritime nation”, he said.
“Our aspiration towards becoming a more developed maritime nation will grow with the years. We can assure you that. I am deeply grateful for your support and faith in us as we shape the Philippines into a maritime nation, ready to forge ahead with a remarkable and global impact,” Tugade noted.
Joining Tugade in the high-level virtual meeting were United Nations Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo, International Labor Organization director general Guy Ryder, International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary general Kitack Lim, International Transport Workers’ Federation general secretary Stephen Cotton, International Chamber of Shipping Secretary General Guy Platten and UNGC special advisor Sturla Henriksen who served as moderator.
370K Filipino sailors
In the meeting, Tugade highlighted Filipino seafarers’ contributions to global navigation as the Philippines has been providing international shipping with trained and qualified mariners for decades. Of the estimated 1.5 million seafarers worldwide, over 370,000 or about 25 percent are Filipinos.
The DoTr chief also highlighted policies adopted by the government that paved the way in strengthening the country’s maritime industry and the steps the Duterte administration took thus far to protect the health and safety of Filipino seafarers.
Among these measures, Tugade said, are the establishment of the “green lane” for the safe and unimpeded movement of seamen amid the pandemic, the identification of ports to serve as crew-change hubs and the establishment of one-stop shops for the uniform processing of those arriving in the country.
“I am happy to report that as of August of this year, the Philippines was able to activate three crew-change hubs in the country and are fast-tracking immediate activation of three more in the next 30 days,” Tugade noted.
Tugade added the validity of standards of training, certification and watchkeeping convention (STCW) certificates, record books, identification and record books of Filipino seafarers to ensure their unhampered deployment and crew changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DoTr chief assured the other ranking global maritime officials that Filipino seafarers will continue to show professionalism and dedication despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic.
“Filipino seafarers carry with them the values of dedication, resiliency, discipline, and excellence, and that the country will continue to strengthen itself as a maritime nation,” he said.
Tugade also recounted the strides the Philippines has made in the development of maritime-linked infrastructure amid the pandemic.
Under the Duterte administration, 369 port projects were completed since 2016, which included 14 port projects which were recently inaugurated through a virtual event.
“I remember distinctly well when I had this conversation with IMO secretary general Kitack Lim in July where he encouraged us to continue on our firm policy to support shipping and the Filipino seafarers. Today, I am happy to declare and to report that as of August of this year, barely two months after that conversation, the Philippines was able to activate three crew-change hubs and are fast-tracking immediate activation of three more in the next 30 days,” Tugade remarked.
In his response, UNGC Special Advisor Sturla Henriksen acknowledged the dedication being shown by Filipino mariners.
“Having served many years with the shipping industry, I can confirm the commitment and the dedication of the Filipino seafarers is remarkable. So, thank you so much,” he said.