EXCLUSIVE: 22 stranded Filipino seafarers in China appeal for help

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Twenty-two Filipino seafarers aboard bulk carrier MV Nikiland are calling for the government's help to bring them back home. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Twenty-two Filipino seafarers aboard bulk carrier MV Nikiland are calling for the government's help to bring them back home.

MV Nikiland left Australia with coal shipment and arrived at the Caofeidian port in China's Hebei Province on July 3, 2020.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the 'no disembarkation' policy imposed by Beijing in all of its ports, MV Nikiland was not allowed to disembark.

"Karamihan sa mga barkong narito sa Caofeidian ay manned ng mga Filipino na tripulante," Filipino seafarer Dexter Del Coro told CNN Philippines in an exclusive report. "Marami ang naka-angkla rito na galing Australia na may dalang coal cargo pero hindi rin sila pinapayagan."

[Translation: Most of the ships here in Caofeidian are manned by Filipino crew members. Many of those anchored here came from Australia carrying coal cargo but they were not allowed (to disembark).]

After spending half a year at sea in China, some of the seafarers are now starting to get sick. Some of them could not get immediate medical attention due to the cost, logistics, and restrictions.

"Hindi kami agad binigyan ng medikal na tulong mula sa pantalan dahil hindi kaagad pinapayagan makapunta ang doktor, maliban kung nasa malubhang kalagayan na," ship captain Ricky Batacan told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: We were not given medical help because the doctors are not allowed to come here immediately unless your condition is severe.]

The 22 seafarers said they are still being paid by the Greek company that owns MV Nikiland, but some of them are already working beyond their contracts.

"Ang kontrata ko ay anim na buwan pero umabot na ko ng 15 na buwan, labis na sa dalawang kontrata. Lahat kami ay tapos na ang kontrata, ang iba umaabot ng 17, 18, at 19 na buwan sa barko," Batacan added.

[Translation: Our contract is six months long but I already reached 15 months, more than two contracts long. All of us had completed our contracts, even reaching 17, 18, and 19 months on the ship.]

The captain said the ship owners assured them they are doing their best for them to disembark or at least be allowed to change crews at the port but to no avail.

CNN Philippines reached out to the Philippine Embassy in China. The Embassy said that they will look into the plight of the stranded seafarers.

"The Embassy has been making representations with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs & the local authorities. China has a strict policy of no disembarkation for foreign crews as part of its anti-pandemic measures. The Embassy continues to work on this case," said Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana in a statement.