After 18 months, stranded Filipino seafarers repatriated from China

After being stranded the entire COVID-19 pandemic aboard a ship in South China, 13 Filipino seafarers finally arrived in the Philippines on Thursday, July 22.

The Department of Foreign Affairs repatriated the crew of the MV Angelic Power on Thursday morning in coordination with their manning agency, Magsaysay Maritime Corporation (MMC). The flight from Guangzhou to Manila via China Southern Airlines was the earliest one available, according to the DFA.

"We are delighted that finally, after long months, they are all going home,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola.

Government officials promised action for the crew when they virtually attended a June 17 House hearing and explained their situation. They were stranded beginning January 2020, but the ship had docked at Guishan Port, Zhuhai, Guangdong, in July 2020.

As per China's COVID-19 safety measures, the seafarers were prevented from disembarking their vessels, except in emergency situations.

The crew claimed MMC did not pay their salaries since the beginning of 2021. The DFA said on Thursday that its coordination with MMC included the payment of the workers' salaries.

The seafarers were stranded due to travel restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and a commercial dispute involving the ship owner. The MMC said in an earlier statement that the seafarers could be summoned to give testimonies during proceedings.

According to the DFA, some of the seafarers earlier "signified their intention to stay in the vessel until the case was resolved, and the ship sold so the others could go home." While stranded, the seafarers received food and basic supplies, though the DFA did not specify who provided these.

Seaman Leonardo Lansang said in the House hearing that the crew suffered mental anguish because of the prolonged separation from their families.

"They produce food for us, but how can you eat when your family does not have food?" Lansang said, on behalf of his crew.

The crew was tested for COVID-19 four days before taking their flight home.

The DFA continues to repatriate distressed Filipinos around the world, including the United Arab Emirates – which has been under a travel ban since May 15 over the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

The DFA has repatriated more than 400,000 Filipinos since the pandemic began. –

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.