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About a thousand officers and crew stayed in AMOSUP and JSU facilities during the state-imposed lockdown in the country during the coronavirus pandemic

The Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) opened its doors to almost a thousand seafarers stranded in Metro Manila after the government imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon on 16 March 2020.

At the beginning of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), there were 500 seafarers under the Union’s care at the Sailor’s Home Main and Annex in Intramuros, Manila and over 400 more at the JSU-AMOSUP Mariners Homes (Annex 1, 2 & 3) in Ermita, Manila. Their accommodations and daily subsistence were provided for by JSU and AMOSUP.

According to AMOSUP President, Dr. Conrado Oca, it is the Union’s duty to ensure the welfare of its members at this time. “We are here to look out for our members especially amidst this crisis. They have done so much for our society and now that they are in a difficult position— away from their families and uncertain about their jobs— our members deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity. Hence, we are all out in providing our members’ needs such as food, toiletries, routine check up and medicines,” Dr. Oca said.

Among the seafarers at the Sailor’s Home is 4th Engineer Vera Antonio. “Pinaluwas lang ako ng company- ang sabi aalis ako ng March 19 kaso nga lockdown two days before ng alis ko sabi cancelled nga daw kasi nagkaroon ng ganitong situation. So now stranded kami sa Manila malayo sa pamilya,” (I was asked by my company to come down to Manila- they said I will leave on March 19, but the lockdown was imposed 2 days before my flight so it was cancelled because of the situation. Now we are stranded here in Manila away from our family.) 4/E Antonio shared.

Jellie Ypo, housekeeping staff at a cruise line, also had the same fate. She revealed the situation has affected her a great deal. “Siyempre po may takot na hindi mo alam kung kalian matatapos, tapos hindi mo alam kung may trabaho ka pang naghihintay sa’yo- kung makakabalik ka pa ba, makakasampa ka pa ba o hindi. Tapos siyempre yung health din po namin ang naiisip namin, hindi lang para sa amin kundi sa pamilya din namin,” (Of course there’s fear, because we don’t know when it will be over, we don’t know if we’ll still have a job waiting for us- if we can still come back on board. Then of course we also think about our health, as well as our family.) Ms Ypo said.

But despite the uncertainty of the situation they are in, they said they are grateful that AMOSUP is there for them.

“Sa panahong ito ang laki po ng tulong ng AMOSUP lalo na po sa accommodation tsaka sa pagkain namin. Tsaka yung safety namin na hindi nila kami pinapabayaan. Sa everyday na nandito kami… alam namin na may AMOSUP na tutulong sa amin,” (During this time, AMOSUP is a great help, especially the accommodation and food they provide. Also our safety, they take care of us. Everyday that we are here, we know that AMOSUP is there to help us through) Ms Ypo added.

The woman seafarer also has a message for her fellow seafarers affected by the crisis, “Itong mga nangyayari sa atin, for sure trials lang naman ito eh, hindi naman ito permanente diba, so siguro wag lang mawalan ng pag-asa. May katapusan din naman lahat ng ito so laban lang po.” (All these things that are happening to us, for sure, these are just trials. Hence, they are not permanent. So let us not lose hope. There’s an end to all of this, so just keep on fighting.)

ITF Seafarers Trust emergency Covid-19 grant

The International Transport Workers Federation Seafarer’s Trust (ITFST) has recognized AMOSUP’s vital role in reaching out to seafarers affected by the global health crisis. Two months into the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the National Capital Region, ITFST gave AMOSUP an Emergency Grant, which was allocated to help sustain the daily meals and utilities at the Union-run dormitories. The Fund was also used to produce food packs that were distributed to seafarers in other dormitories and some on their homes around Metro Manila.

Food packs for stranded seafarers

Since the start of the ECQ, AMOSUP has found different ways of helping out maritime workers in Manila. Despite the limited manpower, the Union was able to distribute over 10,000 food packs to seafarers in different dormitories in Manila as of August.

As the ECQ was relaxed mid-May, the Union workers eased their way to different provinces in North Luzon such as Pampanga and Bataan, and places in Southern Luzon including Bicol, to distribute food packs to more seafarers affected by the quarantine in Luzon.

AMOSUP said the food packs distribution was also implemented in Cebu, and the union aims to cover more areas across the country to reach out to more members in need. SF