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3 Negrense seafarers return home after Fiji ordeal

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Negrense seafarers Edwin Ursula, Richard Amar and Nick Avelino thanked Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez (right) for facilitating their return to Negros Occidental.*GPB photo

Three Negrense seafarers have finally returned home on April 19 after experiencing what they described as a hell-like working conditions on board a Chinese fishing vessel.

Negrense seamen Edwin Ursula and Richard Amar, both of Bacolod City, and Nick Avelino, 24, of Murcia, Negros Occidental, disclosed that they were made to work 22 hours a day, with only two hours to eat and sleep.

“They treated us like animals not as a human,” Amar said, adding that they were also hurt by the Chinese crew.

Their return to Negros Occidental from Fiji was facilitated by Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez and his brother, former Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, a Bacolod City mayoralty bet.

Amar disclosed that they applied as crewmen of a fishing vessel at Britmark Shipping Services, Inc. in Manila in November last year. In March this year, he said they were brought by the company to Fiji, an island nation in the Pacific.

After undergoing the COVID-19 mandated quarantine period, Amar said they boarded a Chinese fishing boat called “Sea Fresh Fishing” which already had three other Filipino crew members.

Despite experiencing hell-like working conditions and inhuman treatment, Amar said they never received a single centavo after working for two weeks, although it was stipulated in their contract to be paid US$400 a month.

“We had a chance to escape after the boat returned to Suva Port in Fiji, after the engine broke down,” he said, adding that they also got help from the Fiji immigration officials.

By posting their ordeal and plight on Facebook, Amar said it reached the attention of Benitez brothers, whom they have thanked for their safe return to their respective homes.

We are back to zero as we don’t have any money anymore. We will return home full of debt, and with nothing, they said.

Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez disclosed that extending help to Negrense overseas workers is being done by his congressional office as a regular duty.

Our help is primarily coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to ensure that they are properly and smoothly, and efficiently repatriated, in a quick process, as much as possible, Benitez said.*

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