The House Committee on Overseas Filipino has called for the creation of an inter-agency task force that will be tapped to conduct search and rescue operations during sea mishaps within or outside the territorial waters of the Philippines.
In a virtual meeting on Thursday, February 11, the House panel chaired by TUCP Partylist Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza unanimously adopted House Resolution No. 1344 calling on various government agencies to form the task force that will also ensure that the families of surviving, missing or dead Filipino crew members will get appropriate government assistance and legal claims from private entities.
Mendoza and Marino Partylist Rep. Macnell M. Lusotan authored HR 1344.
HR 1344 proposed the creation of the task force to be composed of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, Philippine Coast Guard, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, among other agencies.
In calling for the swift adoption of the measure, Mendoza and Lusotan disclosed that during the last ten years, at least 95 ships with tonnage of over 100 GT were lost.
“The Philippines, joined by the South China, Indochina and Indonesia maritime regions, remain the main loss hotspot for ship losses, accounting for almost 30% of losses ove the past year with 12 vessels,” the two lawmakers noted.
While there has been a decline in ship losses in recent years, the number of reported casualties in 2019 “actually increased by five percent to 2,815.”
They also noted that Philippines accounts for at least 25 percent of the world’s crewing requirement for international vessels thus, the possibility of involvement of Filipino seafarers during sea mishaps is also high.
Last year’s sea tragedy in Japan that resulted in the accidental sinking of the Panamanian livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 involved 43 crew members, 39 of them Filipinos, Mendoza and Lusotan revealed.
They stressed that such incidents require immediate deployment of Philippine search and rescue team.
“There is an urgent need to conduct search and rescue operations immediately after a sea mishap, owing to the fact that the drift scenario, in which the search and rescue operations will be conducted, expands as time progress and that manpower and resources readily available for the conduct of search and rescue operations are usually limited,” the lawmakers stated as they underscored the urgency of forming the inter-agency task force.