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Philippines still a top supplier of seafarers

Column box-Dennis Gorecho

The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which was recently greatly affected by the pandemic.

Unlike land-based OFWs, the sea-based workers’ POEA Standard Employment Contract (SEC) mandates that the seafarer is required to make an allotment, which shall be at least 80 percent of the seafarer’s monthly basic salary, payable once a month to his designated allottee in the Philippines.

After dipping low for almost two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the sea-based remittances bounced back in 2021.

Data from the website of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed the fluctuation in dollar remittances of OFWs.  

In 2017, the sea-based remittances reached $6,870,827,000 out of the total OFW remittances of $28,059,789,000.

In 2018, the sea-based remittances reached $6,139,512,000 out of the total OFW remittances of $28,943,112,000.

In 2019, the sea-based remittances reached $6,539,246,000 out of the total OFW remittances of $30,133,300,000.

In 2020 the sea-based remittances reached $6,353,522,000 out of the total OFW remittances of $29,903,256,000.

In 2021 the sea-based remittances reached $6,545,002,000, out of the total OFW remittances of $31,417,614,000.

From the BSP records since 2017, the sea-based sector’s remittances increased in 2018 by $731,315,000, then increased in 2019 by $399,734,000, then decreased in 2020 by $185,724,000, and increased in 2021 by $191,480,000.

In terms of deployment, the records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that the total number of seafarers deployed overseas reached 376,663 in 2017, 337,502 in 2018, 469,996 in 2019 and 217,223 in 2020.

The world supply of seafarers, including those from the Philippines, was greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that caused extended lockdowns and border closures, and the resulting crew change crisis.

The Philippines is still considered as one of the major suppliers of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five crewmembers on board a vessel at any time.

According to the BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report 2021, the largest supplier for both officers and ratings was the Philippines, followed by the Russian Federation, Indonesia, China, and India. Together, these countries supplied 44 percent of the global seafarer workforce.

In 2021, the report noted that there were 1,892,720 seafarers around the world, of whom 857,540 were officers and 1,035,180 were ratings.

It added that the world could face a shortage of merchant sailors within five years, raising risks for global supply chains.

The report pointed out that there was a particular shortage of officers with technical experience, especially at management level, and in the tanker and offshore sectors there was a reported shortage of management level deck officers

Presidential candidate Leni Robredo said that one of her economic platform is the empowering and strengthening of the maritime industry as a national imperative.

She stressed that there must be a focus on the maritime industry as the core industry, not just for the maritime sector but also for the recognition that will help the economy of the entire country.

In order to increase the maritime sector’s size from 6 percent to 12 percent of the economy, there is the need to modernize and renovate the ports and harbors to make the infrastructure more integrated.

She stressed that “this serves a purpose that permeates beyond the maritime sector—a stronger national link through an integrated intermodal national logistics system allows trade to grow at the community level, which feeds into our strategy of looping the grassroots into the economic ecosystem.”

In order to address the inefficiencies in the regulatory framework, particularly on the matter of ship registration, there must be genuine stakeholder engagement, a stock-taking process, and a proper road map to introduce new policies.

Robredo added that there must be a push for industries where Filipinos can maximize their abilities, like in the maritime industry, as Filipinos are known for being great seafarers.

“We have a natural advantage because of the abilities of the Filipino mariners. We would focus on the people: we would set our training with the global standards,” Robredo said.

Atty. Dennis Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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