FORTY-THREE Filipino fishermen who were abandoned by Citra Mina when their boat, Love Merben II were apprehended off the coast of Indonesia last year, will be repatriated next week after an intense “rescue campaign” led by SENTRO and IUF.
Families and co-workers of the imprisoned fishermen bemoaned that Citra Mina, who they believe financed the fishing expedition of Love Merben II, did not even lift a finger to assist the hapless workers.
Citra Mina is the giant General Santos City-based fishing firm and the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh and other brands. It is notorious for not respecting workers’ rights. Owned by the wealthy Lu family, the company started to hog the headlines when it illegally terminated 237 of its workers in August 2013 as part of its effort to bust the union.
Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, described the mass termination as a “brazen and illegal move to bust the fledgling union – a blatant violation of the workers’ right to organize.”
The cases against the Citra Mina management are still pending.
The SENTRO also accuses Citra Mina of perpetrating alleged “human rights violations,” including purported “disappearances” of workers who complain of company abuses.
The Love Merben II was seized by Indonesian authorities last Aug. 26 and the crew members, who were reportedly undocumented or with no IDs and passports, were brought to a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia. The plight of the forsaken fishermen only surfaced when their families and friends began asking help to locate them. Some union members in Citra Mina later learned about it and requested assistance from SENTRO, to which the local union is affiliated. SENTRO, in turn, relayed the information to the international union IUF.
SENTRO and the IUF’s Asia-Pacific regional office then launched a campaign to free the Filipino fishermen, including urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to appeal to the Indonesian government for the immediate release of the fishermen.
After nearly 6 months the fishermen will finally return home to the Philippines. Their return poses the question of why Citra Mina, whose massive profits rely on fishing crews like the crew of the Love Merben II, abandoned them for half a year and failed to take any responsibility.
“This demonstrates a pattern of abuse of workers’ human rights throughout the Citra Mina supply chain from fishermen to fish processing workers,” Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, Acting Regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific, said.
SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.