Maritime Law for Our Seafarers

Article excerpt

Byline: Hern P Zenarosa

EVERY now and again whenever maritime tragedy strikes in the high seas, the possibility of Filipinos as among the victims is always high.

This is to be expected because Filipino seafarers are spread out to most ocean-going vessels as they comprise about a quarter of the global maritime labor requirements.

By their sheer number alone they are marked as most vulnerable at sea among the world's seamen.

The sinking of the Greek-registered MV Alexandros T bulk carrier off the southeastern coast of South Africa last week was only the latest in sea disasters where Filipino seafarers perished and others rescued or otherwise injured.

The way Philippine Ambassador to Pretoria Virgilio Reyes, Jr. narrated in his report to the Foreign Affairs Department the rescue of Filipino survivors, you would feel how our seamen are exposed to life and death adventure in the ocean depths.

An Agence France Presse report said 18 Filipino crewmen were among the 26 still missing, while six Filipinos and a Romanian were plucked to safety after hours in the stormy weather in the sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo has asked the South African government to continue with its search for the mostly Filipino crewmen who remain missing.

In his report, Ambassador Reyes said one of the rescued Filipinos told him that he was with seven other countrymen who were preparing to abandon the sinking ship when "in a split second, a huge wave coming from nowhere slammed into the ship, throwing all of them into the cold waters."

They all swam to a life raft, Reyes narrated, which was some 15 meters away amid the darkness that enveloped the whole space and the turbulent sea and got to it with the faint moonlight guiding them.

Parenthetically, Ambassador Reyes was still a minister counselor when he joined us in the Philippine Embassy in Mexico City during my four-and-ahalf years stint in the foreign service as press attachA[c] years back under Ambassador Clemencio Montesa, and afterwards Ambassador Delia Menez Rosal; Virgilio is the son of former Press Secretary bearing his name during the time of President Diosdado Macapagal. …