Gov't to repatriate Filipino seafarers stranded in China by November - envoy

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 24 2020 01:45 PM

A protester holds a placard demanding government to rescue Filipino seafarers stranded outside the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Pasay City, July 17, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— The government is looking to repatriate Filipino seafarers stuck in China by November, Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said Saturday. 

In a press briefing, Romana said they are looking to organize one chartered flight for seafarers who have been stranded mid-sea in China and have been waiting for a cue to disembark from their ships. 

Romana estimated that there were about a hundred seafarers needing help for repatriation, saying their contracts have either expired or their fleets have been encountering financial problems. 

Earlier reports showed seafarers have been stranded because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"They are working on Chinese ships or foreign ships pero nagkaroon ng economic o financial problems kaya andoon sila sa laot, (that's why they are mid-sea)" Romana said. 

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Foreign seafarers were instructed to remain onboard, but some Filipino seafarers, Romana said, were looking to be given the go signal, saying they have been waiting for "weeks."

"They have been waiting for weeks so they want to disembark and they want to be repatriated back because tapos na ang kontrata nila (their contracts have finished) ," Romana said. 

"Ang plan ngayon ay sa early November at mid-November to organize another repatriation flight," he added. 

(We may have the repatriation plan ready next week. The plan is by early and mid-November we organize another repatriation flight.)

In September, government repatriated a group of 8 Filipino seafarers who were trapped for months aboard their fishing vessel in Fujian province. 

Romana also said the government is looking to help a number of repatriated Filipino seafarers planning to return to China, after being stuck in the country during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown. 

"At its height it was 500 pero Department of Labor and Employment is organizing charter flights for like 300. And 'yun ang pinagtutulungan namin clearance from the Chinese authorities para matuloy ito (we are working together to get clearance from the Chinese authorities for this to push through)," Romana said.