The Philippines is considered as the major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.

According to the BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report 2021, the top five largest supplier for both officers and ratings are the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Indonesia, China, and India. Together, these countries supplied 44 percent of the global seafarer workforce.

The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total OFW dollar remittances.

The Philippines will be celebrating the 28th National Seafarers Day (NSD) this year on September 25, 2023 with the theme “Marinong Filipino: Patuloy sa Pangangalaga ng Karagatan.”

NSD  is celebrated annually  by virtue of Proclamation 828 by the late  President Fidel V. Ramos on July 9, 1996 declaring August 18 as NSD. It was later moved to the last Sunday of September every year by Proclamation 1094. It is to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country.

In 1996, there were 175,469 documented seafarers deployed abroad with dollar remittances reaching US$251.24 million. In 2022, Filipino seafarers deployed  reached 489,852 with the corresponding dollar remittances amounting to US$6,715,880,000.

The first NSD  was celebrated on August 18, 1996 with the theme “Marinong Filipino: Taas Noo!” at the WG&A Pier 4, North Harbor Manila.

It  was held a year after Republic Act No.8042, or  “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995”, was signed into law by President  Ramos on June 7, 1995.

The Stella Maris Philippines is tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the NSD celebration.

Stella Maris is the Catholic Church’s missionary work that gives spiritual, practical, and emotional support  to the peoples of the sea, particularly seafarers and fishers, whether they be on merchant, passenger, war or fishing vessels. It was introduced in the Archdiocese of Manila in 1958 by His Eminence Rufino  Cardinal Santos.

There are presently 14 Stella Maris centers nationwide: four  in Luzon (Manila, Batangas, Pangasinan and La Union),  five in Visayas ( Cebu, Bohol,  Iloilo,  Leyte) and five in Mindanao (Basilan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos City, Iligan).

Masses, novenas and prayers for the safe voyage of seafarers are traditionally part of the annual NSD.

Wreathe and flower-throwing activities are also  offered for the deceased seafarers and fishers, as well as for those who have perished or missing at sea.

Other activities include grand parade, family day, processions, oratorical and art contest, conferences, press briefings, concerts and talent search contests like the Boses ng Marino karaoke challenge. 

This year’s NSD  theme  is lifted from “MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on” theme of World Maritime Day  that will take place on 28 September 2023. 

Adopted on 2 November 1973, MARPOL is International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships   which covers prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.

NSD coincides with the celebration of the National Maritime Week (NMW) every last week of September spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

September is declared  as the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANAMo)  by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 316  signed  on 14 September 2017. It aimed to synchronize the celebration of all maritime-related events and activities, including NMW, Fish Conservation Week and International Coastal Cleanup Day aimed to raise  awareness about maritime and archipelagic issues.

There are two major celebrations honoring the seafarers. NSD as a local event and the Day of the Seafarers every June 25. In 2010, the Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) adopted a resolution establishing every June 25 as the International  Day of the Seafarers.

Sea Sunday is observed on the second Sunday of July  set  by many Christian Churches as an international day of remembrance, prayer and celebration, and an opportunity to thank seafarers and fishermen

By virtue of  FVR’s  NSD proclamation, the first  National Seafarers Conference was  held in 2002 at the Manila Hotel organized by the Stella Maris   in coordination with the Office of Sen.  Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.  The first version of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers was the by-product of the said conference.

The present proposed Magna Carta seeks to implement the standards set by  Maritime Labor Convention (MLC2006)  to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino seafarers by recognizing their rights, instituting mechanisms for its enforcement

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)