Filipino seafarers will have to wait again for another administration to have their own Magna Carta.
The consolidated versions of the proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers in both Houses of Congress — Senate Bill 2369 and House Bill 8057 — aim to improve Filipino seafarers’ working conditions, terms of employment, career prospects, and provide opportunities to harness their potentials to the fullest.
These proposed legislations provide for the protection of the Filipino seafarers’ rights to just terms and conditions of work and safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; self-organization and engagement in collective bargaining; educational advancement and training at reasonable and affordable costs; relevant information; free legal consultation; and access to communication facilities.
However, the proposed legislations failed to reach the bicameral committee stage.
If there are certain differences, a Bicameral Conference Committee is called to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. The bicameral conference committee submits a report on the reconciled version of the bill, duly approved by both chambers.
One chapter on the protection of women in the maritime industry was included in both versions of the Magna Carta.
Women seafarers face not only the general challenges of weather, hard work and rough seas, but also inordinate amounts of discrimination, exploitation, sexual harassment, violence and limited opportunities for promotion. These can affect their dignity, security, health, and well-being.
In addition to the right against discrimination on the basis of sex, the proposed legislation mandates that women seafarers shall be protected from the following discriminatory acts: (a) payment of a lesser compensation, including wage, salary or other form of remuneration and fringe benefits, to a male seafarer as against a female seafarer, for work of equal value; and (b) favoring a male seafarer over a female seafarer with respect to promotion, training opportunities, study and scholarship grants, solely on account of their sexes.
The pending legislations also mandated that shipowners and manning agencies shall formulate gender and development policies.
In addition, all maritime training institutions shall ensure that appropriate gender-sensitive policies are in place to promote the rights of women to adequate training and opportunities, free from discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Women issues were discussed during the several public consultations organized by the office of Senator Risa Hontiveros.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) noted that women represent only less than two percent of the world’s estimated 1.2 million seafarers as 94 percent of them are working in the cruise industry and 6 percent are employed on cargo vessels, container ships or oil tankers.
Aside from Senator Hontiveros, other proponents of the Magna Carta in the Senate include Senators Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Sonny Angara.
The first version of the proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers was the by-product of the National Seafarers Conference in 2002, which was held at the Manila Hotel and organized by the StellaMaris Philippines in coordination with the Office of Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
Years later, several versions were filed by legislators that considered legal developments both locally and internationally.
These include the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (MLC 2006) that sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work, and embodies all up-to-date standards of existing international maritime labor conventions. MLC 2006 is also called Seafarers’ Bill of Rights and the fourth pillar of international maritime law.
The Philippines is considered one of the major suppliers of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five crew on board a vessel at any time.
The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers.
Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected] or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.