By William Casis
FilAm Star Correspondent

Filipino sailors sent home through bank wire transfers a total of $3.2 billion in cash from January to June this year – $259 million or 8.7 percent higher than the amount they remitted in the same period in 2018, the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said.

ACTS-OFW Chairman Aniceto Bertiz III, a former member of Congress, said cash  transfers from Filipino officers and ratings on international ships remain solid on account of non-stop deployment, amid a tight supply of officers in particular.

“We are watching closely the developments in the on-going China-United States trade war, which could potentially affect global import and export and shipping traffic over the Pacific,” Bertiz said.

Citing data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Bertiz said the lion’s share of cash remittances from Filipino sailors in the first semester came from the following: United States ($1.1 billion);  Singapore ($339.2 million); Germany ($282.2 million); Japan ($265.5 million); United Kingdom ($156.5 million); Netherlands ($144.6 million); Hong Kong ($119 million); Panama ($88.5 million); Cyprus ($86.2 million); and Greece ($65 million).

The Philippines is the world’s second-largest supplier of licensed ship officers next to China, and the biggest provider of unlicensed ship ratings or non-officer crew ahead of China, according to the London-based International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The other top global suppliers of ship officers and ratings are India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

ICS previously cited a global shortage of some 16,500 ship officers and an oversupply of ratings.

ACTS-OFW is counting on the forthcoming renewal of the compulsory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program to further boost the competitiveness of future Filipino sailors in the global labor markets.

Shipping companies worldwide prefer to enlist merchant mariners with basic military skills, Bertiz said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier urged Congress to revive the mandatory two-year ROTC course for all male Grades 11 and 12 students.

Meanwhile, ACTS-OFW has sought an update from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the condition of the 13 Filipino sailors reported kidnapped by Nigerian pirates in August.

The Filipinos were among the 17 crew members reported missing after two ships – one Greek and one German – were attacked within hours of each other in the Gulf of Guinea while anchored off Cameroon’s Port of Douala.

In July, a Filipino sailor was also among the crew of the British-flagged MT Stena Impero that was seized and embargoed by Iran after colliding with a fishing boat.