Our Regional Programme provides humanitarian support to seafarers and their families in three specific regions: South East Asia, South Asia and Nigeria. Meet our representative in the Philippines and South East Asia, Renato 'Jun' Pablo Jr...
Tell us about yourself.
I live in Las Pinas City in Metro Manila, Philippines and I’ve been working with MPHRP and ISWAN since 2013, a total of 5 years now working in maritime welfare. I have three children and am married to France Pablo. I am also an Executive Pastor of the United Pentecostal Church in my community in Las Pinas since 2004, with an interest on the moral and spiritual development of the people in my community. This makes me feel fulfilled in my role with seafarers and their families because it also involves helping and supporting people.
What is life like for a seafarer in your region?
Filipino seafarers are remarkable, passionate and dedicated people. When not on board, you will find most of them by simply walking around the streets of Luneta, Kalaw and in some other parts of Manila. Most Filipinos see seafaring as a noble career and a gateway to explore more of the beauty of the world. The Philippines is an archipelagic country and seafaring is part of Filipinos’ nature. The seafaring career attracts many Filipinos as they can earn faster and larger sums than being a land-based worker.
How are you able to help seafarers?
Seafaring is a risky profession, and many of the concerns brought to the attention of MPHRP and ISWAN are due to this. I have been able to provide assistance in cases dealing with the trauma of maritime piracy, supporting and assisting seafarers affected by abandonment, contractual issues, and deaths at sea, medical assistance and even cases involving mental health. The key factor in helping is to provide necessary and practical assistance using the available network and resources of the programme (including small grants), and emotional support for seafarers and their families for a limited period while needed.
What skills are important for your work with seafarers?
Building rapport and establishing and maintaining connections with organisations which can help seafarers to provide practical support is important, but even more so is the availability of emotional support. I spend time with seafarers and their families, both on the phone and face to face, and I have built up a rapport with them after – in some cases – years of work. Much of my work comes by word of mouth and I am proud to be able to provide a network of support for seafarers and their families, not just through me but also through other agencies.
What have you needed to do to help the families of seafarers?
I am used to supporting the families of hostages. The Naham 3 seafarers were held in Somalia for four years, and their families needed help for daily living, school fees and rent. I would speak to them at least monthly, but sometimes more often, and would always be available if they wanted to talk. I received training to be able to help, and I have used this in my connections with other families and other kinds of trauma.
What is the best part of the work you do?
The best part of the work for me is receiving seafarers, discussing their concerns and finding ways to provide practical and timely solutions. A chief cook approached me and asked for medical assistance after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and had no insurance cover for medication. He went to the government for assistance but they could only offer a limited amount which did not cover the required treatment. The Seafarers Emergency Fund provided a grant, he immediately took the medical procedure and recovered. The seafarer came back to the office and expressed his thank you with teary eyes. This is the kind of positive result which is the best part of the job for me.
Tell us about some of the more memorable cases you have worked on at ISWAN.
Working with the families of the Naham 3 hostages is one of the most memorable cases I have worked on, as I was responsible for the connection with ISWAN and their families during their homecoming in November 2016. During the four and a half years they were held in Somalia their children had grown up and their parents had become old. After the homecoming they needed time to make an adjustment from their day-to-day life in Somalia to their new reality, for example going from one meal a day to three, and having freedom to move around. Within the Philippines, the major concern was how to earn money to support their families. Assisting them and their families with this major readjustment was something I was very proud to have been part of.