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House panel passes resolution backing creation of body to probe incidents involving seafarers

A HOUSE of Representatives committee approved Thursday a resolution calling for the creation of a maritime search and rescue task force to help deal with worldwide incidents involving Filipino seafarers.

At a hearing of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, House Resolution 1344 was “approved, subject to amendment and style” according to its chairman, Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza.

The resolution called for the creation of an inter-agency body taking in representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, Philippine Coast Guard, the Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and other agencies.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said at the hearing that OWWA “supports the creation of the inter-agency task force.”

The task force will also provide assistance to families of missing or dead seafarers.

Mr. Cacdac said the task force should also be tasked with investigating cases of missing seafarers. He cited the case of seaman Rogelio Dalen Balahay, Jr. who was reported missing from a bulk carrier in 2019. The suspicion emerged that he may have been “bullied” by shipmates.

“They are not common but we have around five similar cases… we feel for the families plus they do not have benefits because (their relatives) are not declared dead,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez

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