By Filane Mikee Cervantes

BACK IN PH. The 21 Filipino seafarers rescued from a Houthi-attacked ship on the Red Sea meet with government officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City on June 17, 2024. They flew from Bahrain, where they were taken by a rescue US Navy ship on June 15. (Photo courtesy of DMW)

MANILA – A party-list lawmaker on Thursday expressed support for the Department of Migrant Workers’ (DMW) plan to temporarily prohibit all Filipino seafarers from boarding ships that pass through waterways classified as high-risk or warlike zones by the International Bargaining Forum (IBF).

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Party-List Rep. Marissa Magsino said the planned temporary ban on Filipino sailors in hot zones should be carefully studied to ensure the seafarers’ safety.

“We should study this as an option, together with the maritime industry stakeholders. If this will make the ship owners doubly cautious and more mindful of the safety of their crew, then we will support a temporary ban,” she said.

Magsino urged host countries to enhance security to protect seafarers, particularly by increasing naval patrolling in high-risk areas.

“Filipino seafarers should be protected at all times, especially when navigating dangerous areas at sea. Nanawagan ako sa mga bansang kumukuha ng ating mga marino na paigtingin ang seguridad sa kanilang mga vessels. Kung maaari ay mayroon kasamang patrol boats ang mga manlalayag upang maiwasan ang sakuna habang nasa kanilang poder ang ating mga manggagawa (I am calling on the countries hiring Filipino seafarers to strengthen the security of their vessels. If possible, they should be accompanied by patrol boats to prevent such tragedies while our workers are in their domain),” she said.

Magsino expressed hope that the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers would be enacted into law to provide Filipino seafarers with better protection and compensation.

She said the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, which is awaiting President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s signature, seeks to protect their rights and interests, ensuring they have full protection before, during, and after employment, especially in case of maritime accidents, epidemics or pandemics, or other natural or man-made crises.

DMW Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac earlier said the department is studying a policy prohibiting vessels from sailing the Red Sea amid recent incidents involving Filipino seafarers attacked by Houthi rebels.

Cacdac said they have yet to determine the timeline for this as they need to consult their partners.

A careful study of the current situation with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is also needed.

He said they could not implement an outright ban against sailing the Red Sea as they could not stop commerce.

However, Cacdac said Filipino seafarers were already told to assert their right to refuse sailing on the Red Sea.

“We had directed the ships carrying Filipino seafarers to divert. Ngayon, mayroong (Now, there is) right to refuse sailing. ‘Yan ang declaration din (That is also the declaration) in partnership with the International Bargaining Forum that should be honored,” he said.

Houthi rebel groups attacked the Galaxy Leader with 17 Filipino seafarers on board on Nov. 11, 2023 and the True Confidence with 13 Filipino seafarers on March 11, two of whom were killed.

On Wednesday, the same group attacked the MV Tutor with 22 Filipino seafarers aboard. (PNA)