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DMW: MITC seeks declaration of Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden as ‘warlike zones’

The Maritime Industry Tripartite Council (MITC) is pushing for the declaration of Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as “warlike zones” to protect the welfare of Filipino seafarers, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said Wednesday.

DMW officer-in-charge Hans Leo Cacdac said it was discussed in an MITC meeting on Tuesday how the protection of seafarers whose ships are plying the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden would be strengthened following the continued attacks of the rebel group Houthi.

He specifically mentioned the cases involving Filipino seafarers—the hostage taking of 17 Filipinos onboard a cargo ship seized by Houthi in the Red Sea, and the missile attack of the same group on a merchant ship traversing the Gulf of Aden which killed two Filipinos.

“In light of the current situation, the Maritime Industry Tripartite Council considers the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as a warlike zone and therefore strongly recommends to the International Bargaining Forum to declare such areas as warlike zones,” Cacdac said.

He said that the Philippine government, through the DMW, earlier pushed for the declaration of the Southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as high-risk areas, but the MITC now sees the need to heighten this status in order to adequately warn the seafarers who would sail in these areas.

“We know that at the International Bargaining Forum discussions are underway to declare, and hopefully they do declare, the area as a warlike zone,” Cacdac said.

The expanded high-risk areas currently include the entire southern section of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, stretching across to the coast of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa region of Eastern Africa.

Once the Southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have been raised to a warlike zone status, Cacdac said that shipowners will be strongly urged to divert their voyages and avoid passage in these areas.

“Seafarers’ lives are more precious than cargo. Seafarers’ families and Filipino seafarers themselves are more precious than the commerce that goes on that area,” he added.

The DMW will also require maritime principals and licensed manning agencies to register through the OFW Welfare Monitoring System any of its ships that will pass through these areas. Failure to do so will face sanctions according to the rules of DMW.

Cacdac also reaffirmed the Filipinos seafarers’ right to refuse sailing or navigating the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. He stressed that those who exercise this right should not be discriminated against and still be given opportunities to board other ships.

Should a ship decide to continue a voyage along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden sea lanes and the Filipino seafarer does not register his right to refuse sailing, Cacdac said that the seafarer should be entitled to the benefits declared by the IBF.

“Kapag warlike zone, at the very least…a minimum of five days double compensation ang entitlement ng isang seafarer kahit na less than five days ang biniyahe sa Gulf of Aden or Red Sea,” he added.

(If the Gulf of Aden or Red Sea are declared as warlike zones, seafarers are entitled to a minimum of five days double compensation even if they traveled less than five days there.) 

Cacdac said the DMW will establish an electronic portal and registry for seafarers who want to exercise their right to refuse sailing. They will be asked to fill out forms that will be available on the agency’s website for downloading.

These forms will also be distributed to licensed manning agencies for distribution to seafarers.

He said a hotline will also be made available for seafarers who refuse to sail along the mentioned areas.—AOL, GMA Integrated News