MANILA - Filipino seafarers were brought higher in the country’s list of COVID-19 vaccine priority groups as their work is considered crucial in keeping the economy alive, the Department of Transportation said Monday.
From being part of B3 (other essential workers) or B5 (overseas Filipino workers), Filipino seafarers are now under the sub-group A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel), or the Top 4 priority sector. Its previous classifications only rank 8th and 10th in the government’s vaccination priority framework.
The DOTr said in a statement that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the recommendation to reclassify seafarers in the priority list.
Based on government data, a total of 549,000 active seafarers are deployed overseas, while some 51,000 are working domestically. There are also 181,000 seafarers with no updated sea service within the last 3 years, the DOTr said.
“This is a very good development for our maritime industry champions— our seafarers. Now, our Filipino seafarers will be given priority to be vaccinated. Paulit-ulit ko pong inilalarawan ang ating maritime workforce bilang mga silent workers ng bayan. They work silently, yet their contribution is as crucial as keeping the economy thriving,” Transportation Secretary Athur Tugade said.
(I keep describing our maritime workforce as silent workers of the country.)
“The working group is in the unified position to push for the prioritization of Filipino seafarers in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program to secure their employment, and to ensure the safe shipping operations of essential goods amid the pandemic,” added DOTr Asec. Narciso Vingson, Jr.
Top priority will be given to active seafarers or those with recorded sea service within the last three (3) years, while new seafarers or those with last recorded sea service beyond 2018 shall be ranked second, the DOTr said.
In late March, the International Civil Aviation Organization, International Labor Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Organization for Migration and World Health Organization called on governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in the COVID-19 vaccination program “to facilitate their safe movement across borders.”
“Maritime and air transport are two essential activities that underpin global trade and mobility and are key to a sustainable socio-economic recovery,” they said.
“More than 80% of global trade by volume is moved by maritime transport. The global economy depends on the world’s 2 million seafarers who operate the global fleet of merchant ships,” they added.
The Philippines has received more than 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, of which, over nearly 1.14 million have been administered mostly to the country’s health workers, who top the priority list.
Vaccination in the country started March 1, with government targeting to cover up to 70 million individuals to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
A total of 876,225 coronavirus infections have been recorded in the country, as of Monday, 18 percent of which or 157,451 are active cases.