The country’s manning agencies and seafarer groups have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to prioritize the seafarers in the administration’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination program.

Lawyer Iris Baguilat, President of Döhle Seafront, a member company of the Association of Licensed Manning Agencies (ALMA) Maritime Group said ALMA together with other seafarer unions has lauded the Duterte administration’s procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines and asked the seafarers be included in the priority list.

“Deemed as key workers who are vital to maintaining supply chains, Filipino seafarers are counted upon by the international shipping community to man ocean-going vessels. They are responsible for carrying essential commodities such as food, medicines, and fuel all over the world,” she said.

ALMA Maritime Group is an association of over 50 crewing agencies deploying more than 100,000 Filipino seafarers. ALMA together with the biggest unions of Filipino seafarers, the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), the Mariners’ & Allied Transport Employees Union (MATEU); and the Stella Maris-Manila, supported Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Vice-Admiral Robert Empedrad ‘s call to prioritize the vaccination of Filipino seafarers.

“This is a challenging endeavor, even for other maritime countries, and we are appreciative of the government’s efforts. As the government plans to distribute free vaccines, we request to give free vaccines to Filipino seafarers,” the group said in a letter.

As part of an international labor force, Filipino seafarers compete with other nationalities, who were already vaccinated by their respective countries, to be suited to work onboard.

The Group foresees that vaccination will become mandatory for worldwide travel and if the crew were not travel-ready by then, the Philippines will lose the seafaring employment opportunities that will be detrimental not only to the seafarer’s families but to the Filipino labor force.

The early vaccination of our seafarers will ensure their employment and collective welfare as an industry. This will also bring stability to our economy, as the maritime industry largely contributes remittances to the country.