By Marita Moaje

WAR-LIKE ZONES. An injured Filipino seafarer of MV True Confidence hit by a Houthi missile while navigating the Gulf of Aden on March 6 is repatriated on March 12, 2024. The Department of Migrant Workers and the Maritime Tripartite Industry Council is pushing for the declaration of parts of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden as war-like zones. (Photo courtesy of OWWA)

MANILA – The Department of Migrant Workers and the Maritime Industry Tripartite Council (MITC) of the Philippines pushed for the declaration of the southern portion of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden as “war-like zones” (WLZs).

In a news release on Thursday, DMW Officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cadac said they came up with the recommendation during their meeting on March 19. It was sent to the International Bargaining Forum (IBF).

He said Filipino seafarers should be able to exercise their “right to refuse” to sail on vessels bound for areas classified as WLZs.

This, amid the continuing missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who sympathize with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“The DMW and MITC prioritizes the safety and rights of seafarers, who should be made fully aware of their assigned routes and the potential dangers involved,” Cacdac said.

He said Filipino seafarers who refuse to sail should also be protected from discrimination or withheld compensation.

“Our seafarers are not soldiers or military personnel and we cannot allow them to risk their safety and lives by operating in areas with conditions similar to a war situation,” Cacdac added.

Meanwhile, he said the DMW will come up with regulatory mechanisms and processes that will allow Filipino seafarers to exercise their rights to refuse.

He said shipping companies and licensed manning agencies (LMAs) will also be required to register as a “significant event” the passage of any of their ships to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden through the DMW electronic Overseas Welfare Monitoring System (OWMS).

“Failure to report such a significant event opens the shipping principal and manning agency to appropriate sanctions,” he said.

The DMW will open an electronic portal as well as dedicated hotlines through which the seafarers may reach and inform the department that they are exercising their right to refuse sailing.

Both the DMW and the MITC reiterated the call for enhanced security measures in ships traversing the highly volatile sea route, which entails maritime security escorts and onboard security personnel.

The IBF is the forum that brings together the International Transport Workers Federation and international maritime employers who make up the Joint Negotiating Group.

The MITC, on the other hand, is a consultative body on policies and programs on the welfare and protection of seafarers.

It is composed of Philippine government agencies, seafarers’ groups, associations of licensed manning agencies, and Filipino shipowners. (PNA)