About a dozen seafarers went to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to file cases against their recruitment agencies for unpaid wages and benefits amounting up to more than Php300,000 for every crew member.
The seafarers returned to the country last July 23 and were stranded in China for months but they did not receive any compensation.
OFW advocacy group Migrante International joined them in filing cases and they also appealed to the Foreign Affairs Department to help stranded seafarers.
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“I am calling on DFA for the speedy repatriation of other stranded seafarers in Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and elsewhere in South America; including our fellow seafarers in China inside the ship Ocean Star. Some of them are already drinking contaminated water just to survive. There are those who have already died and their remains need to be repatriated. We already experienced what they’re going through right now. We were starved, made to drink rusty water, and were deprived of sleep. Our company did not support us during our ordeal,” Jesus Gaboni said.
“0ur experiences inside the ship were horrible. We were treated like animals. They made us work for almost 20 hours daily without rest. How can we work efficiently with empty stomachs? Deprived of access to food, water, and other supplies, we were really neglected. Our lives were not valued inside the ship…I hope we will finally be able to claim our unpaid wages and benefits which rightfully belong to us. We risked our lives so I hope our cries won’t fall on deaf ears. ” seafarer John Mark Tacata added.
Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion calls out the little funding being allotted for assistance to overseas Filipinos. “Only Php 1.2 Billion was allotted for the Assistance to Nationals Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund for distressed OFWs.
“Why the minuscule budget for distressed OFWs? We demand that the budget for OFW repatriation be increased. Our stranded seafarers and OFWs need food, water, and medical assistance. We don’t want public money to be pocketed by corrupt government officials. Even before the pandemic struck, they’ve been using public money to denigrate migrants’ rights advocates,” Concepcion said.