IN RECENT decades the word “seafarer” has replaced the word “seaman” in the male-dominated maritime industry. The term “seaman” was widely used to describe anyone working at sea.
This is perhaps due to the actions of the United Nations (UN) in promoting gender equality. Women have been taking part in industries that once belonged to men, the maritime industry included.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) noted that women represent only two percent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers while 94 percent of female seafarers are working in the cruise industry.
Within this historically male-dominated industry, IMO stressed that it has been making a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and support women to achieve representation that is in keeping with 21st century expectations.
IMO secretary general Kitack Lim earlier said the maritime industry needs more women because of the quality work they provide. He underscored that women are a very important source of human resources which would make for safer sea travel.
In the Philippines, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) has recorded 73,027 women seafarers or almost 10 percent of approximately one million Filipino seafarers issued with Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book (SIRB) as of December 2018. SIRB used to be known as Seaman’s Book.
Describing them as “bolder and highly driven”, seafaring women have a propensity for not backing down from offers for higher positions, although some bear the social cost of their profession, according to Marissa Oca, founder and president of Gig and Amazing Sampaguita Foundation, Inc (GASFI).
In 1991, Republic Act (RA) 7192, or the Women in Development and Nation Building Act, was passed; it mandates the integration of women in various industries, including the military, to make them on par with men in terms of development and nation-building.
The Philippine Merchant Maritime Academy (PMMA) then started offering to women Marine Engineering (MarE), Marine Transportation (MT) and other maritime courses in 1993. Several maritime institutions followed thereafter.
Since it started in 2011, eight female students were awarded during the annual nationwide search for the Ten Outstanding Maritime Students of the Philippines (TOMSP) of the National Seafarer’s Day (NSD).
The search gave recognition to students for being academically excellent, highly competent in practice, in good moral standing and active in their respective communities.
The chosen students are seen as the embodiment of the “ideal seafarer”, displaying “integrity, passion, assertiveness, dependability, and camaraderie” that will allow them to become globally competitive Filipino seafarer.
Four female winners came from the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), namely Shiela May M. Diaz (2014, BS MarE), Shiela Mae R. Rosales (2015, BSMT), Nellyvette Claire B. Dela Cruz (2017, BSMT), and Loren C. Negapatan (2017, BSMT).
Thaddea Pearl M. Hangad (BSMT) of the University of Cebu, Lapu-lapu and Mandaue won in 2012.
Laarni Grace R. Pangilinan (BSMT) of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA)-Zambales won in 2013.
Sabrina Mccoy Villaruz (BSMT) of Colegio De La Purisima Concepcion-Roxas won in 2016.
Janine H. Elican (BSMT) of John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation- Bacolod won in 2017.
More women have recently filled officer positions such the ranks of chief engineers or master mariners unlike in the past decades when women on board cruise ships were confined to the housekeeping and food and beverage departments.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring Aug. 18 as National Seafarers’ Day aimed at giving due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country.
Later, Proclamation No. 1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to every last Sunday of September every year.
The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) Philippines was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors in activities related to the celebration of said event.
The estimated 337,502 deployed Filipino seafarers in 2018 remitted $6.14 billion or around P318.55 billion.
This year’s NSD is on Sept. 29, 2019. The theme is “Marinong Filipino- Kababaihan: Palakasin sa Industriya!” in line with 2019 World Maritime Day theme ( Empowering Women in the Maritime Community) in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 which is to achieve gender equality and empower all women.
The Sunday masses all over the country are offered to the Filipino seafarers.
Other weeklong NSD activities nationwide led by AOS include novenas, oratorical / art / photo contest, Concert by the Bay, karaoke challenge, and the grand parade participated in by stakeholders.
Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)./PN