A BILL providing comprehensive protection to thousands of sea-based Filipino workers, following reports that they may face ban in European ships over inadequate training and ferry safety issues, has been filed in the Senate.
“Despite Filipino seafarers’ huge contribution to our economy, the glaring failure of existing labor laws and legislation to safeguard their specific needs is very apparent, especially now with the possibility of Filipino seafarers being blacklisted in European ships,” Sen. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said.
Recent news reports indicate that the British government has stated that it will not allow Filipino maritime professionals to work and operate in European ships unless concerns regarding training are addressed and substantial reforms in the safety operations in the sea are put in place.
Currently, there are approximately 80,000 Filipino seafarers aboard European ships based on the data from the British embassy in Manila.
The Philippines has been the world’s top supplier of seafarers since 1987, accounting for some 400,000, or a fourth of the 1.5 million seafarers worldwide.
“The jobs of our hardworking seafarers are now at risk because they receive inferior training resulting to unsatisfactory compliance with international standards.
“Our proposed measure seeks to address this issue by mandating concerned government agencies to actively promote, professionalize and prepare our seafarers for today’s competitive maritime industry,” Angara said.
Under Senate Bill 1986 or the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, first on the list of rights of Filipino seafarers is their right to educational advancement and training at reasonable and affordable costs.
The bill provides that the government should pursue grant programs such as scholarships, subsidies, loan assistance and other measures that will harness the skills of Filipino seafarers toward greater competitiveness to new demands in the industry.
Filipino seafarers must undergo and successfully complete the required basic training under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW) for Seafarers and the International Labor Organization Conventions of which the Philippines is a signatory.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Maritime Training Council and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) will be in charge of maritime training and education, from upgrading the curriculum to upgrading the quality of navigational tools of maritime schools and training centers.
The lawmaker noted that the Magna Carta would complement the recently enacted law that designates the Marina as the single maritime administration on SCTW.
“Our measure aims to develop a huge pool of competitive and efficient seafarers fully skilled to work aboard modern-generation merchant marine ships. We call on the CHED, Tesda and Marina to continue and scale up efforts to improve educational and training institutions for maritime sector workers, “ the senator said.
Aside from the right to education and training, the Angara bill lists the right to just compensation and work under humane conditions; the right to self-organization and collective bargaining; the right to repatriation; the right against discrimination, exploitation and any kind of physical harm, sexual harassment or slavery among Filipino seafarers’ rights.
The right not to be charged in cases of pollution and ship accidents is also covered, as is the right to speedy processing of papers and claims.
The right to legal representation, relevant information, consultation and communication are also included.
“The Magna Carta seeks to protect Filipino seafarers especially on unforeseen circumstances like this when their jobs are on the line or when their rights are threatened,” Angara said.
“Labor laws and social legislation, including the Overseas Filipinos and Migrant Workers Act, are focused on land-based workers while the specific needs of merchant marine workers are hardly recognized. Special laws must be crafted explicitly for the benefit of Filipino seafarers as their circumstances are unique from either the OFWs or the mainstream labor force,” he added.
The measure further seeks to create the Philippine Seafarer One-Stop Processing Center (Psoc), which would streamline the procedures involved in overseas employment to cut the time required for documentary and certification processing.
SB 1986 also aims to put up a database on Filipino seafarers and ensure that occupational safety and health protection rules, and minimum wages accepted internationally are applied on Filipinos working onboard overseas ships.
Latest figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that for the first eight months of 2014, money remitted by sea-based workers rose 8 percent to $3.7 billion and is expected to grow to $5.5 billion by the end of the year.
“The government must endeavor to improve the Filipino seafarers’ working conditions, terms of employment, career prospects and provide them opportunities to harness their potentials to the fullest. We must recognize the rights, contributions and unique role of Filipino seafarers, as well as their vulnerabilities, and afford them full protection,” Angara added.
Mercene, Recto (November 8, 2014). Comprehensive job protection for Filipino seafarers sought, Business Mirror. Retrieved from www.businessmirror.com.ph/