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Creation of separate agency for seafarer welfare pushed in House

Creation of separate agency for seafarer welfare pushed in House
Neil Arwin Mercado February 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Two lawmakers in the House of Representatives are pushing for the creation of a separate agency dealing specifically with the concerns of seafarers.

House Bill No. 8690, filed by Marino Partylist Reps. Sandro Gonzales and Macnell Lusotan, proposes the creation of the Maritime Workers and Seafarers Administration (Mariwasa) responsible “for promoting and protecting the welfare of maritime workers and seafarers before, during, and after their employment and ensuring their proper and effective integration into the mainstream society.”

Further, the bill states that Mariwasa shall also ensure that Filipino seafarers and maritime workers are globally-preferred and that domestic and maritime workers are globally-competitive through an effective, integrated, simplified, and seamless system of education, training, certification, and licensing.

The lawmakers said the country’s sea-based labor export grew by more than 700 percent from 50,604 seafarers in 1984 to 469,996 seafarers in 2019.

“It is high time for this bureau to come into fruition, especially as we have seen how vulnerable the sector is in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

“Once Mariwasa is created, it will be a one-stop-shop for our seafarers to process the documents they need for employment. Our Filipino seafarers no longer need to jump from one agency to another just to get their papers since the agency will be the one to take care of it,” he added.

Moreover, Mariwasa shall also implement international conventions, instruments, laws, policies, rules and regulations relative to the training, licensing, and qualification of seafarers as well as the minimum terms, conditions, and requirements for employment onboard ships, whether domestic or international, such as the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (SCTW Convention) and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

“Mariwasa will be in charge of the functions relating to the concerns of maritime workers and seafarers, while MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority) will focus on ship registration and other ship-related concerns,” Lusotan said.

In 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is eyeing the creation of a separate agency to address Filipino seafarers’ welfare.

“I will also create another agency and that is the maritime… the seafarers. Kasi sinabi ko, sila, iba-iba yung treatment ko doon because of the so many international laws involved dito,” Duterte said.

(Because I said…the treatment there is different because of the so many international laws involved here.)