Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (April 24, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nurses Uniforms and Ladies Workwear)
Our overseas workers are modern-day heroes because of the sacrifices they make while working abroad. Their remittances have sustained the Philippine economy. Two sectors – health workers and seafarers – are not only heroes of the country but also of the world, particularly when the coronavirus pandemic has the global community reeling.
Our overseas health workers – estimated at 254,000 – are at the frontline of the fight to save lives of the victims of the pandemic – the US, the UK and the EU in particular. In the UK, 20 Filipino nurses have to date, perished after contracting the disease while on duty.
Our seafarers man the ships that move the global supply chains that feed the world, fuel vehicles, supply the raw materials for manufacturing and deliver the finished products to consumers. They are crucial to the country’s economic recovery with their remittances.
Ninety percent of global trade is carried on ships. Filipino seafarers – some one million of our citizens – account for 25 percent of global seafarers. They rotate in and out of the country in the course of a year, with some 400,000 out across the seas at any one time. They sent home close to US$7 billion in 2019, representing approximately 23 percent of total estimated remittances to the Philippines.
Returning seafarers need suitable accommodations where quarantine and testing will be administered. The plight of the seafarers deserves the support of all, they are the backbone of the global maritime industry: in their own way, they are the frontliners for all of us, providing the medicines and other products we consume.
Healthcare and logistics remain vital as the world emerges from the devastation that the virus has wrought on human lives and their livelihood. So it is crucial that the deployment of these workers be as friction-free as possible.