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Seamen’s mandatory SSS contributions hit

Seamen’s mandatory SSS contributions hit

SHIP manning agencies have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11199 or the “Social Security Act of 2018,” which requires all land- and sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to become members of the Social Security System (SSS).

In a petition, the Joint Ship Manning Group Inc. asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the implementation of Section 9-B of RA 11199 that provides compulsory social security coverage for OFWs and considers manning agencies dealing with sea-based OFWs as employers.

RA 11199, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in February, requires mandatory SSS contribution from over 3 million OFWs.

The SSS aims to collect more than P31 billion thru RA 11199, which expands and rationalizes the power of SSS under Sections 9-A, which makes coverage of SSS compulsory to all workers, including domestic workers not over 60 years of age.

Section 9-B makes coverage compulsory upon all sea-based and land-based workers as defined under RA 8042 or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.”

The group pointed out that under Section 9-B, “manning agencies are agents of their principals and are considered as employers of sea-based OFWs.”

Manning group counsel Blessilda Abad said Section 9-B was unfair to the sea-based manning agencies, which are considered as employers when they are only recruiters of foreign employers.

“In a way, the liabilities are being passed on to the manning agencies, the recruiters, instead of the employers. So instead of the employers being the shipowners, what happens is the manning agencies are declared employers, when all they did was really to recruit the OFWs,” Abad explained even as she noted that ship manning agencies do not oppose the compulsory coverage of the OFWs.

“Our concern is that the way it is being implemented violates the rights of the sea-based manning agencies,” she said.

On the other hand, the Ople Policy Center and other OFW groups, including land-based manning agencies, opposed the mandatory collection of premiums on land-based and sea-based workers that will form part of the processing of the OFWs before one can be issued an Overseas Employment Certificate by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

It is estimated that 2 million rehires or balik-mangagawa OFWs will have to pay three months’ premium at P2,400 per month or a total of P 7,200 or equivalent to almost P15 billion, while new hires numbering 400,000 will pay one month’s premium at P2,400 or a total of P9 billion.

Another P7 billion will come from 300,000 seafarers deployed annually.

The POEA annually processes over a million rehires or majority of the 3 million deployed OFWs that include new hires and seafarers.