‘Magna Carta of Seafarers’ bill filed to protect rights, welfare of maritime workers

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Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros is seeking the passage of a bill that will not only provide greater protections for the rights and welfare of Filipino seafarers, but also enhance their skills and competitiveness amid the challenges faced by the sea-based overseas worker sector.

Hontiveros, who filed her version of the “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers” (Senate Bill No. 357) as part of her priority legislation in the 18th Congress, said she is optimistic that the Senate “will respond to the pleas of Filipino seafarers everywhere for a law that will better promote their rights and interests.”

“The country has benefited much from the hard work of its maritime overseas workers. It is time that we pay back their efforts with a law that will shield them from abuses and unjust work conditions, and at the same time ensure that they will stay at the top of the global market for maritime professionals,” she said.

Hontiveros said that her bill implements the provisions of the International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention 2006, which the country has signed. The bill thus mandates that Filipino seafarers – including those working on foreign-registered ships – have the right to decent and safe working conditions, the right to fair compensation, the right to organize and the right to free legal representation.

She said that the bill also requires that seafarers be given access to training and other competence-building programs “at affordable and reasonable costs.” The bill likewise provides for procedures to enforce the right to repatriation and reintegration of seafarers.

According to Hontiveros, the bill explicitly tasks government agencies like the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) with the protection of Filipino seafarers. She said that hefty fines or imprisonment await employers and other parties who will violate the provisions of the proposed bill.

Hontiveros said that the reforms under the bill are crucial in ensuring that Filipinos will not lose their “professional advantage” in the international maritime workforce market, as this may lead to loss of livelihood and reduced remittances. Citing OWWA reports, she pointed out that Filipino seafarers deployed around the world have already decreased by as much as 64,748 workers between 2016 and 2017 alone.

“Huwag sana natin hayaang malubog sa kawalan ang kabuhayan ng libo-libo nating kababayang tripulante at marinero,” she said. SENATE.GOV.PH