WELCOME home and let the “fight” begin.
After almost six months of being abandoned by their employer – the giant fishing firm Citra Mina – and left to rot in a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia, the 43 fishermen are now in Manila before going back to General Santos City.
The “abandonados” arrived onboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J 760 at 5:30 a.m. today in NAIA from Jakarta bringing with them harrowing experience following the seizure of their boat Love Merben II off the coast of Indonesia for alleged illegal fishing last Aug. 26.
“Mission accomplished,” Herbert Demos, SENTRO staff who went to Indonesia as part of the rescue team, announced. “All Filipino crew of Love Merben II accounted for,” he reported.
The rescue campaign was led by the national labor center SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs DFA).
Demos arrived in Ternate Island on Feb. 20 to ensure that all 43 fishermen are issued their tickets and travel documents. What he witnessed in the island shocked him.
“I am poor, and was raised in poverty, but I cannot eat what our compatriots were eating in Ternate. The rice they ate had more rice weevils (lice) than rice grains, but they had no choice. I learned that sometimes they quarreled over food because of extreme hunger. What is painful, too, is that they were never visited by our consulate personnel in Manado,” Demos said.
SENTRO asserted that ultimately Citra Mina is to blame for all that the fishermen have gone through.
“Citra Mina should compensate all the fishermen for the whole time they were stuck in Ternate Island,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, stressed, adding that “Citra Mina should also be investigated for its alleged involvement in illegal fishing.”
Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan has pushed for a congressional inquiry on Citra Mina’s alleged labor and human rights violations and its culpability in what had happened to the 43 fishermen. A hearing was set on March 18.
This morning, the repatriated fishermen are scheduled to meet with Jesus Yabes, DFA’s Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.
They are set to fly to General Santos tomorrow morning where a big welcome celebration awaits them.
SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations. Its Asia-Pacific regional office extended much needed help in the rescue efforts.
The 43 abandoned fisherfolk are Felix G. Ababon Jr., Reynaldo A. Ano-os, Joemer G. Ababon, Dennis A. Ave, Clayde G. Batelante, James D. Bermil, Julie A. Curay, Jonald B. Caliso, Arnel Ariel D. Cezar, Aries S. Cezar.
Marjun S. Columnas, Alvin S. Flora, Jovanie S. Flora, Warren S. Flora, Leonardo L. Flores, Marcelino E. Gumera, Eugene S. Hunan, Loreno B. Ignacio, Jhon James Q. Inantay, Adonis A. Janohan.
Cecilio S. Lerin Jr., Antonio B. Robledo, Joe Michael F. Maambong, Jomer S. Mongosera, Edsel M. Mamugay, Jerwin T. Mahinay, Carl Philip S. Maybuena, Edilito G. Maybuena, Alberto S. Pasco, Leopoldo P. Poliquit Jr.
Antonio R. Quiban Jr., Harry A. Redoble, Joey R. Robledo, Jojo S. Ricafort, Archie S. Senina, Noel S. Walog, Kevin Mark R. Saturos, Emmanuel S. Senina, Roberto C. Senina, Edimar S. Sinena, Edgar S. Sigudan, Rolando S. Sayson, and Rodel D. Toyco.