There is a $4.8-billion reason why the Filipino seafarers deserve a permanent place in history. The quoted amount is the remittances brought in by seafarers at least every year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
But more than the money, it’s about time that the thousands of Filipino seafarers toiling in foreign fleet be given protection under a law tailored fit for them.
The accolades as a reliable dollar earner are not enough when the supposed proponent of such recognition differs or changes every election season. The answer lies in permanence.
Something written in stone. The best alternative to a stone embedded with words of praises is legislation. A fiat so strong that no man nor woman could rewrite it as often as the tide comes.
The UFS has been staunchly advocating a Magna Carta for Seafarers for so many years now. In fact, it was a regular fixture when RA 8042 otherwise known as the Migrant Filipino Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 was just on its infantile stage until it became a law.
The UFS hoped that RA 8042 would somehow fill the void.
But alas, the inputs of the maritime industry could no longer be found in the law — no traces nor debris.
By its own reckoning, the UFS noted that the resulting law only mentioned the word ‘seafarer” twice.
Nonetheless, the seafaring sector initially thought that with the passage of the RA 8042, the thirst for salvation would be quenched.
The law turned out to be parsimonious in legislating protection and benefits for the Filipino seafarers.
The bill proposing a Magna Carta for Seafarers is now being given life in the current Congress with a lone lady lawmaker as a prime proponent. Sometimes, the best man for a tough job is a woman.
House Bill 122 filed by DIWA Party List Representative Emmeline Aglipay seeks to recognize the rights of the Filipino seafarers by instituting mechanisms for healthy working conditions and compulsory benefits by establishing conditions of recruitment, placement and employment for overseas Filipino seafarers.
It guarantees the rights given under the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) of 2006 and will apply to all Filipino seafarers in both domestic and international shipping, whether employed on a coastal or ocean-going ship under the Philippine registry, or ships sailing under a foreign registry.
Other features of the bill are: (1) right of seafarers to just terms and conditions of work; (2) right to self-organization, collective bargaining, and participation in democratic exercises; (3) right to educational advancement and training at reasonable and affordable costs; (4) right to relevant information; (5) right to humane conditions of work, and just compensation; (6) right to legal representation; (7) right to consultation on matters affecting seafarers; (8) right to an 8-hour work day, with one day of rest/week, rest of public holidays, with minimum hours of rest/maximum hours of work; and (9) right to repatriation, with costs to be borne by the ship owner unless the seafarer is discharged for cause, or requests early termination.
It is indeed to the great delight of the seafaring community that the once moribund proposed law is now being dusted off and being given a new shot at legislation in the House of Representatives.
Senate members like Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara have also promised to file a counterpart bill. The neophyte senator had its own version of the bill when he was still a member of the lower house.
The proposed measure does not require a mandatory pooling of funds or forced savings to fund DAP-like projects. It only requires political will to finally give the recognition and peace of mind that seafarers justly deserve.
To the ladies and gentlemen of Congress, please pass now the Magna Carta of Seafarers and show us genuine “good faith” in action