Philippine Celebrates National Seafarers Day
The Philippines is considered as the major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four complements on board a vessel at any time.
Given the vast Philippine coast lines (twice the length of the United States and nearly three times more than China), Filipinos have natural maritime instinct that places them at an advantage over other nationalities. Foreign ship owners are known to prefer Filipino seafarers for equally important qualities: dedication and discipline, industry, flexibility, loyalty, English language fluency, adaptability, positive work attitude, law-abiding, and problem-solving capability.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) data showed that there are 367,166 Filipino seafarers with POEA approved contracts deployed in 2013. In 2014, the deployed seafarers brought in US$5,575,722,000 as remittances. The sea based sector’s remittance comprises at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
These remittances help spur domestic consumption in the Philippines and a key ingredient in the country’s drive to achieve higher and sustainable growth.
Recognizing the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country, former president Fidel V. Ramos issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring August 18 as National Seafarers Day (NSD) wherein the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the celebration of said event.
Later, Proclamation No.1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to the last Sunday of September every year.
Now on its 20th year, this year’s NSD fell on September 27, 2015. Nationwide NSD activities include the Memorial at Sea for the deceased seafarers, Grand Parade, High Mass, Oratorical/ Art/ Photo Contest, and Karaoke challenge.
The Grand Parade is usually participated in by more than 4000 stakeholders from maritime schools, government agencies, manning agencies, training centers, maritime organizations, unions, families and private institutions.
The highlights of the festivities include the awarding of the winners in the different NSD contests, one of which will be the Ten Outstanding Maritime Students of the Philippines (TOMSP) honoured by Western Union . The search started in 2010 and gives recognition to students for being academically excellent, highly competent in practice, in good moral standing and active in their respective communities. The chosen students are seen as the embodiment of the "ideal seafarer," displaying "integrity, passion, assertiveness, dependability and camaraderie" that will allow them to become globally competitive Filipino seafarers.
The Filipino seafarers are not only major contributors to the country’s economic growth, they are also ‘saint potentials’, said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle during the 2012 NSD celebration. The archbishop was referring to Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod as he noted that these two martyrs of the Philippine Catholic Church were seafarers and missionaries at the same time before they became saints. He added that Ruiz and Calungsod sailed to other countries and died for a mission: “to teach the Good News.”
“You should be instruments for what is good work and not of temptations,” he added. “The Filipinos today are sailing everywhere. Bring with you the best of the Filipinos.”
Ironically, the Philippines almost lost its slot on the historical first 30 ratifying countries of the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (MLC2006). It took the Philippines six years to ratify MLC2006 on August 13, 2012 after it became a signatory of the so called International Magna Carta for Seafarers’ Rights. The convention sets out minimum standards and fair working conditions for seafarers worldwide. Philippines is the 30th country to ratify MLC 2006 out of the 314 signatories and one of the first thirty ratifying countries required for the convention to take effect.
NSD coincides with the National Maritime Week. Presidential Proclamation No. 866 dated Sept. 6, 1996 declared Sept. 27, 1996 and the last Friday of September every year as National Maritime Day (NMD) spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies, to wit Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA). This was later amended by another issuance making the last week of September as National Maritime Week. /MP