Closures of ports and stricter border controls have put Filipino seafarers on a limbo. Since the enhanced community quarantine began, overseas deployment was already put on hold as part of preventive measures that led about 3800 stranded seafarers to be billeted to boarding houses and accommodation facilities in Metro Manila.
As they wait for government’s comprehensive plan to address the crisis, they began to feel the full weight of crippling lockdown brought about by COVID pandemic.
“Although the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has extended assistance through its relief operations and support system through command crisis centers and MARINA Malasakit Helpdesk, there is still much that needs to be done,” according to its volunteer Cidreck Lued Ferol.
A seafarer himself, Ferol returned home on March 13 from Istanbul. Ferol finished his 3-year program in Information Technology from CITE in 2005 and completed his Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation in 2011.
As a volunteer for OWWA Command Crisis and MARINA Malasakit Helpdesk, Ferol feels the need to extend the reach to stranded seafarers who are relegated to different housing facilities. These include seafarers who are processing their applications, those who are abandoned by their employers, and even those whose contracts were cut short due to the COVID crisis.
He also launched a self-initiated relief operation handing more than 500 packs of food supply out of his own pocket.
Ferol’s soft spot for seafarers comes from his firsthand experience and labor concerns that were brought to his attention through his personal Facebook fan pages, Marinong Pilipino and Kuya SEAd. Marinong Pilipino has grown 372K followers while Kuya SEAd has 32K followers. He also runs a Youtube channel with 18K followers featuring helpful video content and tutorials for the welfare of seafarers’ community. Portions of the revenue from these social media platforms also go to his advocacy and extension program for distressed seamen.
Ferol was an Operations Manager for COMPASS Training Center, Inc. and the rigors of such position have sharpened his focus and strengthened his core.
“In the future, I would like to be a lawyer defending seafarers facing labor injustice and human rights violations. Right now, I am directing my efforts to promoting good work and advocacy for government organizations and NGOs through social media. Please don’t forget that my motivating factor is our CITE motto, ‘doing ordinary things extraordinarily well’,” Ferol said during a Facebook interview.
His endgame is to set up an independent media company that gives voice to the underrepresented sector of seafarers in the country while collaborating with other institutions. At the rate he’s going, there is no doubt that he is already running a tight ship.