Enact the Magna Carta for Seafarers Now!

Filipino seafarers dominate the global maritime industry. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), there is an estimated 380,000 Filipino seafarers out of 1.5 million in the world as of 2016[1] . In 2014 alone, seafarers’ remittances amount up to US$ 1 Billion and continue to significantly contribute to the Philippine economy. Despite how lucrative seafaring seems to be, the maritime industry remains to be one of the most dangerous sectors to work in. The very nature of the maritime industry makes seafaring one of the most dangerous professions in the world.[2]

Filipino overseas seafarers–those whose vessels tread international waters–are covered by several protections afforded to them by the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos or Republic Act No. 8042 (as amended by Republic Act 9422 and Republic Act 10022). However, seafarers face specific and distinct issues and situations that need to be addressed by the Philippine government.

Our seafarers face the risk of abandonment and pirate attacks at sea, labor rights violations, health risks, and the costs of being separated from one’s family for long periods of time. To add to these, according to a study by the Institute of Labor Studies of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), migrant workers generally have a low level of preparedness for their return–both financially and socially. Hence, to streamline and bring attention to the rights and issues of seafarers, there is a need to pass the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers into law.

In 2012, the Philippines ratified the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) of 2006. MLC 2006 is a response to the globally recognized situation of workers in the maritime industry. It seeks to address issues in the working and living conditions of seafarers. It also provides the minimum standards for decent work for seafarers. By ratifying the convention, the Philippines has committed to enacting policies, programs and services that are aimed towards promoting the rights and welfare of Filipino seafarers either local or overseas. To achieve this, the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) urges the Philippine government, specifically the Philippine Congress to enact a Magna Carta of Seafarers in order to render more effective its compliance with the provisions of the MLC 2006.

Several bills are pending in the House of Representatives and in the Senate that seek to institute a Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers. House Bill (HB) 5685 was on its third and final reading in the House of Representatives last July 26, 2017. The bill was introduced by Representatives Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Jesulito Manalo, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Karlo Nograles, Jericho Nograles, Tomastio Villarin, Raymon Mendoza, Mariano Michael Velarde Jr., Tricia Velasco-Catera, Winston Castelo, Rtaul Del Mar, Strike Revilla, Estrellita Suansing, Micaela Violago, Cristal Bagatsing, Sharon Garin, Angelina Tan, Pablo Ortega, Evelina Escudero, Rodel Batocabe, Ancieto “John” Bertiz III, Julieta Cortuna, Rose Marie Arena, Teodoro Montoro, Gwendolyn Garcia, Anthony Bravo, Harlin Abayon, and Deogracian Victor Savellano.

House Bill 5685 seeks to improve the Filipino seafarers’ working conditions, terms and conditions of employment and their socio-economic well-being. Its key provisions include seafarers’ rights in line with MLC 2006, shipboard trainings for cadets, responsibilities of the ship owners and manning agencies, and puts forth welfare and social security protection for seafarers. HB 5685 is a consolidation of several bills in the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, four more bills have been introduced that also seek to codify a Magna Carta for Seafarers. These are, namely, Senate Bill (SB) 214 by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, SB 904 by Senator Joseph Ejercito, SB 249 by Senator Loren Legarda, and SB 1996 by Senator Risa Hontiveros. The different proposals are aimed towards improving the protection of seafarers at all phases of deployment, and streamlining the delivery of quality programs and services.

With the passage of a Magna Carta, Filipino seafarers will be given the knowledge to assert their rights, improve their competencies, and ensure their safety and well-being. At the same time, we urge our legislators to study carefully the provisions of each bill to ensure that the best interest of our seafarers is at the heart of it. Legislators must be able to look beyond short-term effects of the law and consider how the law shall fare in the long run. It is also advised that legislators take into consideration the reports of possible mass unemployment of Filipino seafarers in anticipation of the EU’s ruling on hiring Filipino seafarers.[3] We must work to ensure that they are given decent work in humane living and working conditions not only for themselves but for their families.

As we celebrate World Maritime Day this 27th of September 2018, we must remember that the plight and struggle of the people who are the backbone of this industry must not be forgotten and pushed aside.

Mabuhay Marinong Pilipino!

[1] Ben Kritz and Tmt, “Seafarers Facing Tight Job Market in 2017,” The Manila Times Online, February 18, 2017, https://www.manilatimes.net/seafarers-facing-tight-job-market-2017/312853/.

[2] Seafarers Rights International, “Deaths and Injuries at Sea,” 2018.

[3]Crossworld Marine, “European Union ruling on Filipino Seafarers to Come out next month,” 27 September 2018, http://crossworldmarine.com/news/88-european-union-ruling-on-filipino-seafarers-to-come-out-next-month.html