Overseas Filipino Workers are heavily affected because of the pandemic. According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, more than 174,000 OFWs were repatriated since the start of the pandemic (1).
However, repatriation is easier for land-based workers since their location can be identified easily. What about seafarers?
Unfortunately, it is more challenging for seafarers to be repatriated by the government. An estimated 300,000 migrant seafarers around the world were unable to disembark and forced to stay in the shipping vessel due to restrictions (2). In the Philippines, about 80,000 Filipino seamen are stranded at sea and have lapsed contracts, although the government is doing the best it can to bring them home (3). Nonetheless, job openings keep on coming and there are still thousands who are considering getting a job at sea.
In line with this, the government, through the POEA, released Governing Board Resolution No. 13, which serves as a guide on the deployment and repatriation of Filipino seafarers.
Here’s what you need to know:
When the seafarer cannot be deployed due to Covid-19 –
Let’s say you already have a signed Employment Contract and all your documentation requirements are complete. You are also scheduled to leave on a certain date – until Covid-19 happened.
Due to travel restrictions that resulted to flight cancellations and regulations issued either by the Philippine government or your country destination, you cannot be deployed.
In that case, the seafarer shall be provided food and accommodation at the principal or employer’s cost. This will be until the seafarer is deployed OR the contract was cancelled.
When the seafarer was deployed BUT become stranded during transit –
You were finally allowed to leave the country. On your way to the country destination, you were stranded because of Covid-19 related reasons. You can’t even go home due to flight limitations.
If you were stranded during transit, then you will also have the right to paid basic pay, accommodation, food, and medical benefits at the cost of the principal or employer. This is until the seafarer is able to join the vessel.
If the seafarer’s service was terminated for a just cause but not related to Covid-19 –
If the seafarer is stranded and cannot go back home because of the pandemic, then the employer shall provide food, accommodation, and medical benefits at their cost until the seafarer can go back to the Philippines.
The employer or principal can recover the costs in accordance with the Employment Contract or Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In case of repatriation –
When a seafarer is bound for repatriation due to reasons related to Covid-19, then s/he is entitled to paid basic pay, accommodation, food, and medical benefits at the expense of the principal or employer. This is until the seafarer is repatriated and able to come home in accordance to Philippine protocols on OFW repatriation.
OFWs may avail of the Balik Probinsiya program so you can go back to your province. In the meantime and while in the quarantine facility, seafarers shall be provided food and accommodation at principal or employer’s expenses, unless otherwise provided by the government.
In case the seafarer cannot be repatriated –
There are several situations to consider:
- If the seafarer cannot join the ship and currently in a quarantine facility shouldered by the principal or employer, then paid basic pay as well as benefits such as food and medical must be given until the seafarer either joins the ship or goes back to the Philippines.
- If the seafarer completed his period of contractual service and his/her replacement is already on board, then s/he must be paid basic pay and afforded food, accommodation, and medical benefits by the employer or principal until s/he gets back home.
- If the seafarer is still ashore despite the end of employment contract, then same benefits mentioned previously must be given.
Take note that these guidelines are in effect until March 15, 2022. It may be lifted or extended, depending on the situation. Nonetheless, let us all hope and pray for better days ahead.
(1) https://mb.com.ph/2020/09/01/174000-ofws-repatriated-since-april-lorenzana/ .