Envoy says around 70 Filipino seafarers still stranded in China
The Department of Foreign Affairs welcomes home 16 previously stranded Filipino seafarers and three land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from China, who arrived at 1:30 a.m. on September 29, 2020.
Released/Department of Foreign Affairs

Envoy says around 70 Filipino seafarers still stranded in China

(Philstar.com) - October 24, 2020 - 1:21pm

MANILA, Philippines — Dozens of Filipino seafarers are stranded in Chinese waters while awaiting repatriation, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta Romana said Saturday. 

"The problem now are the stranded seafarers because they are waiting on the vessels, and the owners, because of financial problems, have no plan [and] cannot pay them or their contracts are over," Sta. Romana said partially in Filipino during a virtual briefing. 

Of the hundreds of Filipinos in China who asked to return to the Philippines due to the coronavirus pandemic, the envoy said only about 100 are still awaiting repatriation. Around 70 of these are stranded seafarers, he added.  

These workers were affected by China's "no disembarkation" policy — a precautionary measure implemented due to the pandemic and the unavailability of commercial flights. According to the envoy, some of them have waited weeks and still have not been able to disembark. 

"One flight will...suffice for now, one repatriation flight, and we hope this will be it," the ambassador said. 

Last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs repatriated 16 seafarers who were previously stranded in China. Of these 16, 11 were stranded at sea for more than six months. 

Latest data from the agency shows that 33% — or 73,870 — of the 223,294 migrant workers repatriated so far were sea-based. 

Mission to Seafarers Philippines, a non-governmental organization, earlier this month said "seafarers are the hardest hit" by the pandemic. The organization's country manager, Lala Tolentino, during an online consultation said many Filipino seafarers have been forced to work not just consistent overtime hours but are working over contract as well. 

The United Nations in June called the current situation faced by seafarers across the globe a "growing humanitarian and safety crisis." — Bella Perez-Rubio

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