MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said yesterday that there are still 30 Filipino seafarers being held hostage by pirates.
POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac, however, could not immediately ascertain the period during which these Filipino mariners were captured.
Cacdac noted in an interview over radio station dzRH that it was highly probable that Filipinos are on board hijacked ships because they comprised 30 percent of the world’s seafarers.
"There is really a big chance that there is a Filipino in the vessels that pass through Gulf of Aden in East Africa," he added.
Asked about the compensation of Filipino seafarers victimized by pirates, Cacdac said there is a POEA Memorandum Circular that requires all ship owners through their manning agencies to submit a "safety or anti-piracy plan" before recruiting and deploying seafarers.
"They also have to conduct anti-piracy sea training among seafarers before deployment. And if a vessel will sail outside the safety corridors, as prescribed by the international standards, they have to notify the POEA, especially outside the internationally-recognized transit corridors," he said.
The POEA also has a Governing Board Resolution that requires ship owners to pay the seafarers twice their regular compensation if they sail along Gulf of Aden.
But despite the risks, many Filipinos are still looking at working in foreign vessels primarily because of compensation.
According to Cacdac, a deck crew in a foreign ship can earn some $1,000 to $2,000 a month, while an officer can receive $5,000 and chef some $2,000 to $3,000.
A top ship official, on the other hand, can get $16,000.
"And when you are in a vessel, they really take good care of you because there are international standards that need to be observed," he added.
Cacdac underscored the big contribution of seafarers to the country's economy.
He said that of the $20 billion in remittances generated from land-based and sea-based Filipino workers abroad, $4 billion come from seafarers.
"Three years ago when we had a crisis, the remittance of sea-based workers was higher than the land-based. They are really a source of income and revenues. Their remittance is not just stable but it is increasing," Cacdac added.