Hope awaits seafarers marooned in ports around the globe, as Transport Secretary Art Tugade assured they can now go home to their families.
Tugade approved of the proposals of various stakeholders to increase the inbound flights capacity of returning overseas Filipino workers.
This was bared by Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad on Daily Tribune’s digital morning show “Gising Na!”.
Earlier, the group of manning agencies comprising the Alma Maritime Group reiterated their call for seafarer exemption on inbound flight cap by allowing their free entry on top of the 2,500 capacity the National Task Force against Covid-19 implemented.
According to the group, this problem is unique to Filipino seafarers, as other nationalities have no limitation in going home or no risk of being stranded in transit to their home countries, which heightens their risk to Covid-19 exposure.
“In our maritime operations, we are the only country in the world that bans its nationals from returning,” the group said.
Due to this limitation, many shipowners avoid significant additional costs, and are now shifting to non-Filipino seafarers, which results in the loss of job opportunities to Filipino seafarers.
Because of this, the group also called for authorities to direct the airlines to honor the Filipino seafarers’ marine fare to become cheaper, compared to the normal booking rates and fully flexible to changes with zero to minimal rebooking charges.
Most international flight seats are randomly canceled by the airline due to these passenger limits, leaving seafarers either extending tenure onboard or stranded abroad waiting for weeks or a month for Philippines flights to become available.
The current cost of international flights to the Philippines range at around $1,500.00 and peaks at $4,500.00 per person.
The call for returning seafarers is guided by the industry’s quest to extend the spirit of the Philippine Green Lane to returning seafarers.
To recall, the Green Lane was adopted to ensure unhampered and safe movement of seafarers up for deployment overseas. This time, the group’s appeal for the Green Lane is “to facilitate the return of Filipino seafarers to our home country.”
The manning group, responsible for deploying 160,000 seafarers, also proposed to the government to provide additional hotel rooms for quarantine purposes to facilitate the return of the country’s beleaguered seafarers.
with Raffy Ayeng