Home>Editorial>Miscellaneous>EU supports ILO and partners to empower community leaders to ensure safe migration of Filipino fishers

EU supports ILO and partners to empower community leaders to ensure safe migration of Filipino fishers

Outreach effort leverages church network across the country to help convey the practical realities of work in fishing.

Safe migration of Filipino fishers
Community leaders from different church ministries in Visayas and Mindanao gather in Cebu for the pilot testing of the Migrant Fishers Information Packet, 2024. © Vonna Vista/ILO

Cebu, Philippines – A new initiative is equipping migrant fishers and their communities in the Philippines with crucial information to help them make informed decisions about working in fishing and to prepare for work on foreign fleets.

With funding from the European Union (EU), the International Labour Organization’s Ship to Shore Rights SEA (ILO S2SR), with support from the European Union (EU), and in collaboration with Fair Training Center (FTC ) and Stella Maris Philippines have piloted an innovative outreach strategy to empower prospective Filipino migrant fishers.

Migrant fishers are being equipped with a rights-based, needs-based information package. The information package consists of information, education and communication (IEC) modules that convey the practical realities of work in fishing.

The new outreach strategy leverages the extensive network of ministries of the Catholic church across the Philippines in migrant communities to deliver the information package.

The Migrant Fishers Information Package has been created with stakeholders including 50 return fishers from different provinces. Their experiences and insights shared during group discussions, interviews and community dialogues held in July 2023 have been integral in ensuring the relevance and effectiveness for targeted prospective migrant fishers. The package addresses the unique needs of migrant fishers before making the decision to apply for a commercial fishing job, and before their deployment onto the vessel.

With 29 master trainers from Stella Maris and 80 community leaders who have already undergone comprehensive trainings to enhance their knowledge and skills in administering these modules, Stella Maris, with the facilitation of FTC, is rolling out the Migrant Fishers Information Package in 15 locations across the Philippines: Manila, Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Maasin, San Fernando, La Union, Batangas, Ilo-Ilo, General Santos, Tagbilaran, Alaminos, Isabela de Basilan, and Talibon.

Safe migration of Filipino fishers
Community leaders role play as facilitators of the Migrant Fishers Information Packet modules, 2024 © Vonna Vista/ILO.

Among the participants was Romeo Casteno, a 60-year-old former migrant fisher from Iloilo with 15 years of experience in foreign seas. Reflecting on the training, Casteno expressed gratitude for the opportunity to address critical issues affecting migrant fishers, stating, “If only these interventions were already in place years ago before we started working as migrant fishers, we would have had a better grasp of the working conditions that we will be facing, we would have known if we are willing to do what’s in the contract, and if we are really fit for the job– physically, mentally and emotionally. We would have had the option to look for other jobs and not leave our family.”

Safe migration of Filipino fishers
A former migrant fisher, Romeo Casteno, shared the difficult experiences he had while working for a foreign-flagged commercial fishing vessel for 15 years, 2024 © Vonna Vista/ILO.

“The Migrant Fisher Information Package promises to empower individuals with the necessary tools to make informed decisions, ensuring safer and more fulfilling migration experiences for all involved,” said Mi Zhou, Chief Technical Advisor, Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia programme. Annually, an average of 4,335 Filipinos leave the country to commercially fish aboard foreign flag vessels, according to the ILO.

Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia programme, with EUR 10 million financed by the European Union (EU), is a multi-country, multi-annual initiative EU and the United Nations (UN), implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Its overriding objective is to promote regular and safe labour migration and decent work for all migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in Southeast Asia.

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