About 100 Filipino seafarers went missing over the last three to four years, and the Philippine government is still clueless as to what happened to them.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Hans Leo Cacdac revealed this Thursday, July 29, at the resumption of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs’ inquiry on the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Cacdac, the seafarers “suddenly” went missing, leaving no clues for authorities to trace their whereabouts.
“Marami tayong kaso, sa bilang namin, mga isang daan (We have many cases, in our count, they are about 100),” he said, telling the House panel that the disappearances occurred “over the last three, four years”.
Cacdac also said that majority of those who went missing belonged to lower ranks, such as cadets, able seamen, and ordinary seamen.
He said the figure does not include missing seafarers in reported sea accidents, like the ill-fated Gulf Livestock 1 that left 39 Filipino crew members lost at sea after sinking in September last year.
“And usually parang right after merry-making or an event, nag-inuman or what have you; and then there’s no proof, napakalinis, no CCTV [footage] kasi walang CCTV on board. Walang nagsasalita, basta lang daw nawala (And they usually disappear after merry-making or an event, a drinking session or what have you; and then there’s no proof, no closed-circuit television footages because there are CCTVs on board. No one has an idea, saying they just disappeared suddenly),” Cacdac said.
Charity group Mission to Seafarers Philippines confirmed Cacdac’s revelation, saying families of the missing seafarers have long been asking for updates from the government to no avail.
“Iba-iba po silang barko…nawala na lang po sila (They were from different ships…and they just vanished),” country manager Lala Tolentino told the House panel.
“Wala silang naririnig pa na update sa ngayon (Relatives have yet to hear an update about their missing loved ones),” Tolentino lamented.
Cacdac admitted that the Philippine government has yet to conduct a thorough investigation on the disappearance of Filipino seafarers, noting the country lacked jurisdiction over foreign vessels and international waters.
Fellow crew members of the OFWs also refused to cooperate.
“There’s something about it that for me, as a lawyer, it rings alarm bells, eh,” Cacdac raised, although he said he won’t speculate.
He asked lawmakers to look into possibility of passing legislation that would create a government body to look into such cases, as well as marine accidents and other incidents.
“We feel na sa (that for the) Philippine government’s side, siguro dapat meron ding (there should also be a) body or committee or tribunal that can conduct an investigation, kahit na ‘yong aksidente, o pagkawala nangyari sa ibang bansa (on accidents or disappearances abroad),” Cacdac appealed.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) representative and House committee chairman Raymond Mendoza committed to act on Cacdac’s call, asking the OWWA and other concerned agencies to submit details on the missing Filipino seafarers.
“Something must be going on,” Mendoza said, echoing the OWWA official’s concern.