The government is committed to promote and protect the welfare of seafarers and other Filipino overseas workers in recognition of their contribution to the nation’s growth, according to a Palace official.

At the recent commissioning ceremony of the new training ship M/V Kapitan Gregorio Oca in Manila, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said they recognize the OFWs as the “modern-day heroes” who deserve government support.

He said the Duterte government has taken measures to enhance the welfare of OFWs, including the establishment of one-stop centers to address their needs as well as the creation of their own bank.

“The DOLE has likewise established 17 One-Stop Shop Service Centers where OFWs can avail of government services. These One-Stop Shops have extended assistance to 1.22 million OFWs,” he said.

“The first-ever OFW Bank has also been created to respond to the financial needs of Filipino migrant workers and their families,” he added.

He said the President also signed Republic Act 10928 that extended the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years. “It’s a boon for seafarers who want to spend their shore time with loved ones instead of lining up for needed official documents,” he said.

In his remarks, the former lawmaker particularly cited the Filipino seafarers as the “the best and most trusted in the world” as he lauded the inauguration of the new training vessel.

“It’s common knowledge in government, the maritime sector, and beyond our shores that Filipino seafarers are world-class. They are the most sought-after seafarers in the global shipping industry. We are the first choice to man ships at sea, from luxury cruise vessels to giant tankers,” he said.

Based on Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) statistics, Nograles said every US $100 in cash remittances the country receives from overseas Filipinos, $20 come from sailors. Filipino seafarers sent home a total of $1.9 billion from January to April in 2018.

He said the new sea vessel, that will be used to train students of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), would help further improve the skills of Filipino seafarers.

The 1,750 gross ton ship, built in Japan and arrived in Manila last January 24, could accommodate 138 crew members. It has a service speed of 13.8 knots.

He noted that the ship was a symbol of MAAP’s commitment to pursue the highest levels of excellence in maritime education. It also represented the government’s resolve to promote the best standards of safety and professionalism in the maritime industry, he added.

This article originally appeared on on February 3, 2019.

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