Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday directed the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) to do “whatever it takes” to repatriate the 13 Filipino seafarers who have been left stranded for 17 months onboard their vessel in Southern China.
The 13 Filipino seafarers are crewmembers of MV Angelic Power, a Greek-flagged bulk carrier reportedly abandoned by its owners as an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak last year.
“Oh God. Yes. I heard about them. Right now. @DFAPHL whatever it takes including me begging. Tagal na ito (This has been too long). Repat flight. Here first. Sarah (DFA Undersecretary Arriola),” Locsin tweeted in reaction to a report by CNN Philippines.
In a video message sent to the network, one of the stranded seafarers appealed for the government’s help to reunite them with their respective families.
“Nagmamakaawa po kami na bigyan ng pansin kaming mga seafarers dito na bakit po di kami kayang pauwiin. Wala pong kinakain mga pamilya namin, puro po problema sa pinansyal (We are begging for attention, us seafarers, on why we cannot be allowed to go back home. Our families have no more food to eat and saddled with financial problems),” the Filipino crewmember said.
It was reported that from Indonesia, MV Angelic Power reached China last year and has since then encountered problems resulting to their being stranded for so long.
They complained that food supplies are dwindling and many of them are getting sick while their insurance has already expired. The seafarers also claimed that the company they have worked for has withheld their salaries since the start of 2021.
“Inabandona na po kami ng may ari. Wala po kaming insurance, expired na po ang insurance namin dito. Marami pong nagkakasakit (We were already abandoned by the owner (of the vessel). We no longer have insurance. It already expired. Many are getting sick),”thye stranded Filipinos added.
Due to a lack of other options, the Filipino seafarers chose to air their appeal on social media, hoping that authorities would be able to hear their plea for help.