Independent senatorial candidates, party list woo seafarers’ vote

May 7, 2013 10:11 pm 

MANILA, May 7 — With barely six days before the election, Senatorial and party list candidates have laid their legislative plans for the local maritime industry and vowed to push for seafarers onboard ocean-going vessels' access to vote.

Independent senatorial candidates Ricardo Penson and Rizalito David, of Team Buhay and Partylist Representatives; Capt. Ronald Enrile, of Ang Partido ng mga Pilipinong Marino, Inc. (Angkla), Ambassador Roy Seneres, of OFW Family, Chief Engr. Christopher Maambong, of Amor Seaman, and Emilene Aglipay of Diwa Partylist joined the Election Forum entitled Halalan 2013 : Boto ng Marinong Pilipino.

The forum organized by Seafarer Asia magazine, with the support of the Maritime Journalists Association of the Philippines (MJAP) was held at the Associated Marine Officers and Seamens Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) Convention Hall in Intramuros, Manila.

MJAP President Eloi Calimoso said the forum helped stakeholders in the local maritime industry contribute in charting the good direction of the sector possibly through legislation.

Seafarer Asia Liaison Editor Carmela Huelar, currently the MJAP Director and PRO said Filipino seafarers are consistent dollar earners and have helped the country through its remittances, during the Asian financial crisis and global economic recession in 2008.

“Even with the size of this industry, it is yet sorely under- represented in both Houses of Congress,” Huelar said.

The seafaring sector aired their concerns which they hope that these senatorial candidates and partylist could resolve when they get elected. However, one of the major hindrances from voting in this mid-term election, is when seafarers are at sea.

“Our seafarers, once they reach the port, can visit the embassies and vote. But normally, when they made a stop, their ship will easily leave the port. Comelec does not have on-line voting yet, we hope by next election, they can allow seafarers to vote online,” Enrile said.

Maambong cited the practice in other country, in which seafarers are allowed to use one pin or one sim for one vote. But here, Comelec was wary about hacking.

Penson said it is unfair to disenfranchise the seafarers, numbering about 500 million. He said there was a petition to open the casting of votes 30 days before the election and for seafarers to vote online, using the mariner’s card as password. But, it could probably be done by 2016.

Other concerns include environmental issues, usage of seafarers’ contribution in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds, age limits for working onboard ships and educational assistance.

Aglipay said the Diwa partylist has scholarship programs for indigent students and entice students who want to become mariners to avail the program.

Enrile said seafarers have huge contribution to the economy through remittances. He said the seafaring is the single sector with the largest contribution in OWWA funds.

“We will ask OWWA to have the seafarers’ contribution separate from land-based contributions, because the funds were mostly used for repatriation. What our seafarers need are hospital, training, education and transient houses because they are mostly from Visayas and Mindanao,” Enrile said.

On the issue of age limits, Seneres explained that the manning agencies give priority to younger seafarers, since this was the request of ship owners.

Also, would- be- legislators vowed to push for ratification of MARPOL 1-6 , which is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

David said he made contributions to the environmental legislations when he was working in Senate as executive assistant and committee secretary.

Seafarer Asia Editor-in-Chief Regina Abuyuan said the forum gave seafarers the means to air their concerns. Those seafarers at the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) campus in Bataan, John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University in Iloilo and Davao Merchant Marine Academy in Davao were able to join the forum via internet streaming.

“We organized this event to give seafarers easy access to those who will be shaping the future of the industry in terms of legislature. The Filipino seafarer is a formidable force and undisputedly the number one supplier of maritime labor in the world fleet,” Abuyuan said. (PNA)

GVF/UTB

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