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Philippine Church offers moral support to seafarers

Bishops seek to reassure seafarers, migrants suffering under recession brought about by pandemic

Philippine Church offers moral support to seafarers

Bishops in the Philippines have urged Filipino seafarers to remain strong amid a recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has urged Filipino seafarers to reach out, communicate and stay on course as the Philippines continues its fight with an economic recession.

In a pastoral letter issued for International Day of the Seafarer on June 25, the CBCP said the Church recognized their struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bishops also reminded them to have faith and courage in God and in themselves.

“These lockdowns, quarantines and closing of companies are added storms to our earthly journey. But remember, even if the waves are big and the winds are so strong, we have to raise our sail and keep our hands on deck,” said the bishops.

The prelates also told seafarers of the ups and downs of life and of the determination and perseverance needed to reach port, the end of the journey.

“Life has its ups and downs. It presents many cruel trials and costly troubles. Yet we go on in life. We set our sights on the shore, on our port,” the bishops added.

The pastoral statement was in response to an increase in suicides and depression among Filipino seafarers.

On June 11, a 28-year-old Filipina who worked on a cruise ship committed suicide in her cabin while waiting for repatriation.

Government authorities have said depression and anxiety have stretched the Filipino spirit to “breaking point.”

“We are tartly reminded that Filipino resilience is no excuse to stretch them to breaking point. We are not made of rubber. We are humans,” said Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on social media.

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Government figures also said thousands would remain and stay jobless in the Philippines due to canceled working contracts.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters in May that more than 20,000 seafarers had been repatriated due to the economic recession brought about by Covid-19.

Reports also said thousands had arrived in the Philippines but were under quarantine in government and private medical facilities in Manila.

Despite all these setbacks, the bishops reminded Filipino seafarers to be focused and firm, reminding them of the words of Jesus.

“You may be beset by storms of seasickness, separation and sadness but don’t waver, don’t be perturbed. Stay on course and remember Jesus, the captain of your soul, is telling you, 'Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid,'” said the bishops.

Ten percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product comes from the salaries overseas workers send to their families. 

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, claimed the Philippine economy has bled with the repatriation and unemployment of thousands of overseas Filipino workers.

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