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New bill to protect Filipino seafarers’ rights passed on final reading

New bill to protect Filipino seafarers’ rights passed on final reading
The Editorial Team April 6, 2023

The final reading of a measure that passes a bill in favor of Filipino seafarers’ interests and rights, known as “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers,” was approved in March with the aim to ensure that they have “full protection” before, during, and after employment, especially in the event of maritime accidents, epidemics or pandemics, or other natural or man-made crisis.

As informed, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass House Bill (HB) No. 7325, shortly titled “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers,” which also aims to develop a pool of competent and world-class seafarers “through a system of education, training, certification, and licensing.”

Our seafarers are our unsung heroes. Almost 400,000 of them are on board merchant shipping vessels around the world at any given time. They are not only a source of income for the country through their remittances but also a source of pride, …Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said.

Provisions of HB 7325 cover Filipino seafarers “who are employed or engaged or work in any capacity on board foreign-registered ships and Philippine-registered ships operating internationally.”

According to the measure, Filipino seafarers have a right to:

* Safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards;
* Fair terms and conditions of employment;
* Decent working and living conditions on board a ship;
* Health protection, welfare measures, medical care;
* Self-organization;
* Information about seafarer’s family;
* Against discrimination;
* Educational advancement and training;
* Relevant information;
* Free legal representation;
* Appropriate grievance mechanism;
* Access to communication;
* Fair treatment in the event of a maritime accident;
* Fair medical assessment.

The bill also lists the duties and responsibilities of seafarers, as well as of ship owners and manning agencies.

It also mandates that the standard employment contract, or SEC, shall be reviewed and approved by the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to ensure that the contract stipulations adhere to or protects the rights of seafarers as laid down in the measure.

HB 7325 goes to great measures to lay down the protection mechanism for seafarers in cases of epidemics, pandemics, maritime accidents, and other crises, which entitles them to full compensation.

If affected by a pandemic or epidemic, seafarers should be entitled to “medical care, board and lodging for periods spent by a seafarer in quarantine or self-isolation,” as well as “hospitalization and medical treatment when the seafarer is sick or infected – until declared as fully recovered.”

“Seafarers shall be entitled to adequate compensation in the case of injury, loss or unemployment arising from the ship’s loss or foundering, in accordance with the SEC or the CBA (collective bargaining agreement),” the bill reads.
The Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration is also mandated to establish seafarer welfare facilities or centers in major crew-change ports, “specifically in Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City, and other areas.”

“A One-Stop-Shop for Seafarers, which shall have representatives from government agencies that process or issue licenses, permits, clearances, and other documents required by seafarers shall also be established in these welfare centers for the convenience of the seafarers and to maximize the services being offered to them,” HB7325 said.

The Secretary of the DMW, or a duly authorized representative, shall also have access to foreign-registered ships and Philippine-registered ships operating internationally and “conduct inspection to ensure compliance with working and living standards of seafarers as provided under this Act.”

The shipowner or master shall ensure the compliance of the ship with this Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), who shall be made principally liable for any violation thereof. For this purpose, the Maritime Labour Certificate or a certificate of compliance, as applicable, shall be issued in accordance with the IRR"