HomeCommentaryMagna Carta should expand seafarers' rights

Magna Carta should expand seafarers’ rights

“Promote the rights of seafarers against abusive employers and unjust placement agencies.”

This is the call of the Stella Maris Philippines on the occasion of Sea Sunday, which is observed on the second Sunday of July each year.

A job of a seafarer is not exactly a walk in the park. A vessel has always been identified as a high-risk workplace. The industry remains fraught with health and safety hazards that increase seafarers’ risks of accidents, illnesses, and mortality.

Sea Sunday is set by many Christian Churches as an international day of remembrance, prayer, and celebration, and an opportunity to thank seafarers and fishermen who work tirelessly throughout the year bringing us more than ninety percent of the goods we need.

“Let us accept the essential and valuable contributions of our seafarers. They are our front liners, living channels for economic development, for cultural progress and human advancement,” according to a statement released by Stella Maris Philippines.

Stella Maris is the Catholic Church’s missionary ministry for and with the peoples of the sea, particularly seafarers, whether they be on the merchant, passenger, war, or fishing vessels.

Stella Maris said the goods which we use, patronize, or give did not come to us easily, instantly.

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“Everything and everyone exerts patience, perseverance, and performance. There are indeed constant sacrifices and services are rendered. We can say blood, sweat, and tears are shed. And these are from our seafarers and seaport workers; shipbuilders and owners; and our coast guards and port officials,” it said.

“The seas connect people. The seas give life and livelihood. The seas transport, move everything and everyone around the globe,” it added.

The Philippines is considered the major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.

Filipino seafarers deployed in 2022 reached 489,852 with the corresponding dollar remittances amounting to $6,715,880,000.

In terms of deployment, the Department of Migrant Workers and Statista records showed that the total number of Filipino seafarers deployed overseas reached 376,663 in 2017; 337,502 in 2018; 469,996 in 2019; 217,223 in 2020; 345.52 in 2021; and 489,852 in 2022.

The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total OFW dollar remittances.

Records from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas indicate the sea-based sector’s remittances for the past six years: $6,870,827,000 in 2017; $6,139,512,000 in 2018; $6,539,246,000 in 2019; $6,353,522,000 in 2020; $6,545, 002,000 in 2021; and $6,715,880, 000 in 2022.

The data showed that remittances increased in 2018 by $731,315,000; then increased in 2019 by $399,734,000; then decreased in 2020 by $185,724,000; then increased in 2021 by $191,480,000; then increased in 2022 by $172,878,000.

Aside from Sea Sunday, other events are held to honor seafarers including the World Day of Seafarers and National Seafarers’  Day (NSD)

“Let us see with grateful heart their services, their sacrifices, and of their families,” Stella Maris said.

In 2010, the Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) adopted a resolution establishing the Day of the Seafarer every June 25.

The Philippines also celebrates the NSD  every last Sunday of September every year.  Masses and prayers for the safe voyage of seafarers are traditionally part of the annual  NSD, which is celebrated by virtue of Proclamation 828 issued on July 9, 1996, declaring August 18 as NSD.  It was later moved to the last Sunday of September every year by Proclamation 1094.

The purpose of NSD is to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers in the development of the Philippines as a maritime country.

Stella Maris is tasked to coordinate with the public and private sectors for the NSD activities.

A pending legislation that stakeholders are awaiting is the passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers.

The proposed Magna Carta seeks to implement the standards set by MLC2006 to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino seafarers by recognizing their rights and instituting mechanisms for its enforcement.

The Magna Carta should be for the Filipino Seafarers, not for those who violate seafarers’ rights and abuse them. It should expand, and not limit, the seafarers’ rights.

A provision that will adversely affect a seafarer’s cause in whatever manner or nature has no place in a legal document that should be for their protection in the first place.

The pending Magna Carta is the translation into reality of the late President Ramon Magsaysay’s wisdom: “He who has less in life should have more in law”.

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786

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