Secretary of Foreign Affairs 

on the 

Day of the Seafarer 

25 June 2021 


The Department of Foreign Affairs is honored to celebrate the Day of the  Seafarer.  

This annual commemoration dedicated to seafarers recognizes their invaluable  contribution to global trade and the world economy; and celebrates the seafaring fame  of the Filipino since pre-Spanish times; which led the first Spanish Cardinal in Manila  to tell the King of Spain of that for which the Filipino stands out: fighting and sailing.  

Seafaring is always difficult and frequently life-threatening; not just from storms  at sea but from the deplorable working conditions in which it is undertaken with the  notable exceptions of European and advanced country’s vessels like Japan’s. It has  been worse in this pandemic.  

The pandemic has not been kind to anyone. But it has been especially harsh  to seafarers. Many have lost their jobs. Many are unable to come home, stranded at  sea with limited provisions due to quarantine restrictions on disembarkation and  embarkation. Some have been stranded on board for as long as a year, in ports that  will not allow them to disembark. This tragic situation has taken a toll on their well being, mental health and on their families. Some have taken their own lives. 

This is unacceptable and outrageous. The DFA has led the charge in bringing  back home our seafarers and fighting for their human right to crew change. Our  government has established Green Lanes to facilitate movement of seafarers within  our borders. We have also prioritized them in the vaccine program – as we should — as frontline workers. Every boat is a petri dish of deadly disease.  

Together with the International Maritime Organization we are pushing for a “Fair  Future for Seafarers.” With the Philippines having over 337,000 seafarers, it is logical, good policy and just plain right and decent for us in government to ensure a good  future for them. Let us not fail them; because that is like throwing them overboard with a makeshift anchor tied to their ankles.  

Hence we are pressing relevant agencies to address recurring negative  findings of the European Maritime Safety Agency on the regulation of Maritime Higher Education Institutions. The future of a seafarer begins with the right training and  proper schooling. We have been told again and again, indeed for 16 years that many  of our schools are failing to provide this. And so far, we’ve come up only with excuses.  As a result, close to 30,000 marine officers are in danger of losing their jobs on board  European-registered vessels, the best-paying and the best-treating in the entire world.  No others come close except those of Japan. This is the last thing we need.  

Under my watch we will go on condemning bad maritime schools that put our  better ones in such a bad light; and we call on those tasked with the job to just do it.  Meanwhile the DFA will go on fighting for working conditions for seafarers in other  vessels; and we will continue pressing loudly for the right to repatriation and crew  change.  

The DFA will always be there for the men and women who buoyed up our  economy when it was listing, and who left family to find a better future for them. A  meaningful Day of the Seafarer to all.