“Because over 80% of global trade is transported by sea, the work of seafarers is vital to the world’s economy, even during normal times. Their role becomes even more crucial to all of us in the midst of major upheavals, such as the COVID-19 pandemic we currently find ourselves in,” said Ambassador Antonio M. Lagdameo in a video message aired by the Philippine Embassy in London on the occasion of the International Day of the Seafarer.

The Philippines has been recognised as one of the largest sources of seafarers around the world, deploying more than 500,000 Filipino seafarers out of 1.6 million around the world. Many of them are recruited to man international tankers and sea vessels, often working at sea for several months before they are able to reunite with their families and loved ones.

The Embassy joined the other 174 member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in recognizing seafarers as key workers, especially as the world continues to battle COVID-19. The Embassy concurrently serves as the Philippine Mission to the IMO and actively works towards upholding the rights and welfare of seafarers and shaping maritime policy to promote safety and security in global maritime trade. The Philippines has been a member state of the IMO since 1964.

“Like healthcare professionals, seafarers are at the frontline of the response to this pandemic because their work allows food, medicine, fuel and other vital supplies to reach those who need them the most,” said the Ambassador, highlighting the critical role seafarers play in these unprecedented times.

According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remitted more than USD 6.5 billion as of 2019, accounting for more than 20% of total remittances. Because of this, sea-based OFWs are considered a major OFW segment.

Because of the current pandemic, the Embassy has doubled its efforts in providing support and assistance to Filipino seafarers by making its consular services more accessible to sea-based OFWs and by reuniting distressed seafarers with their families through several waves of repatriation.

“We continue to be vigilant in ensuring that their rights are protected and their welfare is promoted. And through our representation at the IMO, we ensure that the international community recognizes the inherent value of Filipino seafarers to the world at large,” said the Ambassador.