Statement: On the 11 Stranded Seafarers Onboard Ocean Star 86 in Fujian Province, China

25 September 2020 — The Department of Foreign Affairs, through its Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen, reports that contrary to the Migrante International’s misleading press release, it has long been attending to stranded Filipino seafarers in China.

Moreover, arrangements are being finalized for the repatriation of the remaining 11 Filipino seafarers who have been stranded in Chinese waters onboard Ocean Star 86 since 24 March 2020.

Contrary to Migrante International’s slanted claims on the situation of the said Filipino seafarers, their plight was first directly brought to the attention of the Philippine Consulate General on 22 April 2020 when it received an email letter from a certain Jake Cruz, through the Philippine Embassy in Beijing. The Philippine Consulate General immediately contacted the seafarers through an individual identified to be the team leader to determine their working, physical and mental conditions. Understanding the difficulty of their situation, the Philippine Consulate General immediately prepared packages containing ready-to-eat food and personal hygiene needs such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste, items which were requested by the seafarers themselves. The latest of these care packages were sent to the distressed seafarers this week when the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen learned that the vessel was finally allowed to dock without yet being permitted to disembark its crew.

Aside from providing for their basic needs, the Philippine Consulate General also made regular representations to Chinese authorities and ship owners for all Filipino seafarers stranded in the waters off the coast of Fujian province, including those onboard Ocean Star 86 and other Chinese vessels, so that they be paid their salaries and other allowances.

Since March 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with other relevant government agencies, has successfully initiated and coordinated six (6) repatriation undertakings that brought home 188 seafarers and other stranded Filipinos from Fujian province alone.

As of 24 September 2020, there have been a total of 66,029 seafarers out of the 190,245 overseas Filipinos brought home by the Department of Foreign Affairs from all over the world, despite the various travel restrictions and lockdowns in place worldwide brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Repatriating seafarers, in particular, is made more challenging due to docking and disembarkation restrictions for vessels set by local authorities and the severely limited number of flights.

Due to the unprecedented number of repatriations undertaken by the DFA this year, the P1 billion-peso Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) Fund was quickly depleted, and an additional 820 million pesos for ATN COVID-19 response was allocated by the Philippine government to ensure the continuing repatriation of Filipinos stranded abroad.

The DFA, through the Philippine Consulate General, is continuing to act on the needs of the 11 seafarers and will continue to exert utmost efforts to them, along with other stranded Filipinos in China in general, and in Fujian province, in particular.

The DFA assures the public that it remains unceasing in its efforts to serve and protect the interests of the Filipino people wherever they may be. END