The Department of Labor and Employment’s Maritime Training Council (MTC) had issued a memorandum circular asking the country’s maritime training schools and centers to include in their maritime courses offered to seafarers topics on prevention of alcohol and drugs abuse in the maritime sector (PADAMS) and personal safety and social responsibility (PSSR).
The move, according to MTC executive director officer-in-charge Clifford Paragua, is provided for under MTC Memorandum Circular 07 Series of 2010, and is aimed at addressing concerns about Filipino seafarers suspected of acting as drug couriers.
“The MTC move to include the specified topics on PADAMS and PSSR in maritime education is aimed at addressing the growing concerns in the maritime industry regarding Filipino seafarers suspected of being drug mules,” Paragua said.
He added that it complements the DOLE’s strong push in implementing the 22-point labor and employment agenda of President Benigno S. Aquino III, particularly on expanding the welfare and protection of overseas Filipino workers, including seafarers, which comprise 11 items in the agenda.
According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Asia (PDEA), in Asia alone, there are a total of 302 drug-related cases involving Filipinos. Majority of the cases are in China (205), Hong Kong (26), and Malaysia (17). Majority of the Filipinos caught were lured to act as “drug mules” by international drug syndicates.
Of the Filipinos involved in drug-related cases in China, five have been meted the death penalty without reprieve, while 70 were sentenced to death but with a two-year reprieve. There are 35 cases given life imprisonment sentences, 68 with fixed-term imprisonment, and 27 pending cases.
Paragua explained that the training modules on PADAMS and PSSR intend to educate and warn maritime students and seafarers enrolled in upgrading courses against alcohol and drug abuse and drug smuggling which certainly are detrimental to their lives, health, and employment.
The PADAMS module covers discussions on drugs and drug dependence, policies, and programs on drugs in the maritime sector while the PSSR module covers company, regional, national, and international rules and regulations on the use and carrying of prohibited drugs and alcohol.
The MTC official explained that the inclusion of the said topics in the PADAMS and PSSR training modules are needed to emphasize to seafarers not only problems related to alcohol and drug use on board but also the issues on commercial ships being utilized for drug smuggling operations.
“In the discussion of these topics, maritime training schools should emphasize the policies that exist in various levels and the associated sanctions and penalties, as well as the responsibilities, of the seafarers in helping ensure that their ship is not utilized for illegal activities,” he explained.
The Philippine government has initiated many programs to curtail the recruitment and involvement of Filipinos as drug mules, but there must even be a stronger emphasis on personal responsibility on the part of Filipinos going abroad not to get involved or not let themselves be victimized by unscrupulous individuals, whether they may be Filipino or foreigners.