An article (http:// globalnation.inquirer. net/158511/filipinoseafarers-still-fall-prey-humantraffickers)

Published by the Inquirer a few months ago forcibly reminded me about the continued vulnerability of our seafarers to exploitation.

The report narrated how, upon repatriation, the body of one of our seafarers was found to be missing one of his eyes, as well as his pancreas. He had been completely out of touch with his family for almost a year, prior to the discovery of his death.

Each maltreated seafarer is one too many, every seafarer dead, harmed, or endangered due to exploitative practices is a failure on the part of the government, a failure to provide due protection to a brave class of workers it proclaims to be heroes. We cannot laud the sacrifices made by our seamen without at the same time taking every possible step that we can to ensure that these sacrifices are minimized, and that the fundamental rights of our citizens are protected, no matter what sea or ship they sail upon.

Ommittee, will become a law that will go a long way towards codifying and protecting the rights of Filipino seamen.

The Magna Carta, in its current form, is meant to protect against exploitation by giving specific standards for employers to meet. These include specifying that a seafarer cannot be made to have normal work hours of more than eight hours a day, and in any case, no more than fourteen hours of work in any given twenty four hour period, and no more than seventy two hours in any seven day period. The Magna Carta also mandates a minimum acceptable level of quality for a seafarer’s work environment: safe, decent and adequate accommodations, and recreational Facilities in certain instances.

The codification of the rights of seafarers is important, even when some of these rights are necessarily couched in broad and general terms. As shown by documents such as the Bill of Rights, it is easier to inform a group of people of their rights through a singular document, rather than pointing to diverse provisions of law or scattered regulations. It is easier too, for those covered by those rights, to internalize them when they are couched in simpler terms than precise technical words.

Of course, this is also why the Magna Carta for Seafarers, even once passed, cannot be but more than a first step — an important step, but not the completion of our mandate to safeguard our seafarers. There is much yet to do, both in implementing the Magna Carta and in going beyond its safeguards — in the Inquirer article I mentioned at the start of this column, the unfortunate seafarer was serving on a fishing vessel, and those ships are not covered by the Magna Carta. There are also threats external to the employer-employee relationship — the seas are a dangerous place, as we were once again reminded of recently with the abduction of four of our seafarers in Nigerian waters this month.

How can we better protect seafarers? What more can we do? This is a question that we must regularly ask, not only in the government, but in the private sector as well. There have been initiatives and partnerships involving private institutions, such as special seafarer SIM cards (https://technology.mb.com. ph/2017/10/23/new-globe-seafarer-sim-for-affordable-international-calls/), and schools for aspiring seafarers (http:// business.inquirer.net/237152/ royal-caribbean-cruis – es-sti-build-school-seafarers). Educational and skill-training programs in particular synergize well with the recent 10-year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP) Program launched by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

And of course, at the vanguard of any movement to improve the lives of seafarers should be the seafarers themselves. May you all strive, individually and as a community, to better the lives of those in your chosen vocation. In this, you can count on my support, as a legislator and as a Filipino.

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