You are here

PH shipping exodus seen sans escrow protection

PH shipping exodus seen sans escrow protection
Alden M. Monzon - May 30, 2023

MANILA -Stakeholders have warned of an exodus of key shipping operators without the escrow provision that provides protection for seafarers in the proposed magna carta for seafarers.

Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines legal head Noli Partido said the escrow provision in House Bill No. 7325 protects seafarers as wages, statutory claims and undisputed claims would not be included in the mandatory escrow account, a provision currently missing in a counterpart bill in the Senate.

“Although the Senate bill on the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers is still up for interpellation and a series of bicameral committee meetings, the removal of the escrow provision is a big blow to the stakeholders and [some] are now preparing for the gradual demise of the Philippine maritime industry as shipowner exodus shall remain unabated,” Partido said in a recent statement.

United Filipino Seafarers president Nelson Ramirez is of the same view, citing that such an escrow provision “will protect the Filipino crew of international vessels from predatory ambulance chasers.”

Ambulance chasing is the act of coaxing workers, in this case the seafarers, to seek monetary damages against their employers as compensation for work-related injuries.

Most of these lawyers, however, do not mention that monetary settlements awarded by the National Labor Commission and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) could be overturned by the Court of Appeals (CA) or the Supreme Court.

Escrow provision

The escrow provision seeks to ensure that the monetary award is safe from ambulance chasers by mandating that it is temporarily deposited in a third-party or escrow account that could only be released after the final court ruling.

Association of Licensed Manning Agencies chair Iris Baguilat said that more than P2.5 billion worth of claims awarded by the NCMB alone from 2018 to 2022 had been reversed by either the CA or Supreme Court, illustrating the magnitude of the problem.

“The seafarers were ordered to restitute the amount to the shipowners but were unable to do so because more than half of the claims that they got had already gone to ambulance chasers whom they contracted to file and claim on their behalf,” Baguilat said.

From 45 percent in 1995, the market share of Filipino seafarers onboard global merchant vessels steeply declined to 14 percent by 2021 due to the exodus of foreign shipowners, in turn primarily caused by ambulance chasing, according to Baguilat. INQ