After Six Months, 43 Stranded Pinoy Fishermen to be Repatriated from Indonesia

2015-0223 After Six Months, 43 Stranded Pinoy Fishermen to be Repatriated from Indonesia

Help sought for Pinoy fishermen jailed in Indonesia. Relatives and friends of 43 imprisoned Filipino fishermen in Indonesia have accused a giant General Santos City-based fishing firm of abandoning the fishermen after their boat Love Merben II was apprehended off the coast of Indonesia last year. The fishermen will be repatriated next week with the help of the Int’l Union of Food Agriculture, Hotel, Catering and other allied groups. Danny Pata

Forty-three Filipino fishermen will be repatriated next week after being detained in Indonesia for almost six months for alleged illegal fishing.

The 43 will be coming home through the joint efforts of labor unions led by Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Maggagawa (SENTRO).

SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata said the fishermen were detained after they were abandoned by their employer when their boat, Love Merben II, was apprehended off the coast of Indonesia late last year.

“Una, wala silang dokumento. Pangalawa, yun palang kanilang barko ay walang permit para mangisda sa Indonesia kaya inaresto,” Mata said at a press briefing in Manila on Friday.

Mata accused the fishermen’s employer, the General Santos City-based fishing company Citra Mina, of doing nothing to help the fishermen since their arrest on August 26, 2014.

“Walang suporta, walang kahit anong binigay sa kanila ang Citra Mina. At yung mga pamilya nila, mula pa noong Agosto, natural, nabaon na nabaon sa utang dun sa mga may-ari ng barko [na] nagpapautang sa mga manggagawa,” Mata said.

GMA News Online tried contacting Citra Mina, but was unable to reach officials after being referred to three different departments. Calls to two of the three departments were left unanswered.

SENTRO said it took them and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) a long time to track down the fishermen as Love Merben II had no manifest.

“Sa totoo lang, matagal na kaming kumukuha ng mga pangalan ng mga tao simply because wala pong manifest,” Mata said.

Lonely Christmas

IUF’s Hidayat Greenfield said even Indonesian officials felt sympathy for the 43 men.

“They were so disturbed, the immigration officer told my staff that all of them, grown men, cried on Christmas morning. The immigration officer felt such sympathy for them that they arranged a small Christmas celebration for them,” Greenfield said.

He also laid the blame of illegal fishing on the company that hired the fishermen.

“The illegal fishing was conducted by the company that buys the tuna… [it] was not committed by the people working on the vessel. They are doing their job,” said Greenfield, the IUF’s acting regional secretary in the Asia Pacific.

“Citra Mina must be held accountable for every fisherman they have left abandoned and neglected… for what they owe this fishermen, and they must be held accountable for human rights,” Greenfield said.

Sacada farming system

Akbayan national council member Benjamin V. Sumog-oy told GMA News Online that fishing in General Santos City was based on the Sacada farming system.

“Isang uri ito ng sharing system taken doon sa sugarcane plantation doon sa Negros na oppressive, na nag-cause ng destitution of the workers,” he said.

Sumog-oy explained that workers were paid for the catch they sell directly to the company buying them.

“Yung illegal acts ng mga company doon, they are being done like a daylight hold-up. It is being done with impunity na kahit klaro na illegal, ginagawa nila. It’s not only prevalent, it is a norm,” Sumog-oy said.

Should fishermen unite or join unions, their entire family will be blacklisted from working in the fishing industry, he said.


Upon their arrival on February 23, the fishermen will demand their held wages, but Mata was not optimistic that Citra Mina will honor their request.

“Most likely, Citra Mina will deny that these are their workers. They will say that no contracts were ever signed with these workers,” he said.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, who was also in the briefing, said the issue on Citra Mina may be tackled on the March 18 hearing of the House committee on labor and employment on the fishing industry.

In 2013, Citra Mina hit the headlines when it allegedly terminated 237 of its workers as part of an effort to bust the union.

(Source: KBK, GMA News)

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