In line with the International Migrants Day, the SEA Network (Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network) and the Makabayan Bloc represented by Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Ferdinand Gaite held a press conference on the 18th of December 2020 to raise their demands pertaining to the Magna Carta for Seafarers Bill currently subject to the legislation process in the House of Representatives. The group’s demands and declarations are as follows: 

We, the Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network SEANetwork, a newly formed alliance of organizations and individuals who are fighting to empower seafarers in their defense of their rights and welfare, declare:

  1. That we are in full support of the passage of the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers , House Bill 6588 and consider substitute bill HB 8057 as a step in the right direction.

We commend the most important provision of the substitute bill HB 8057 in ensuring the rights of seafarers at the time of COVID 19, and ensuring that seafarers have the right to material assistance and financial support from the shipowner with respect to the financial consequences for sickness, injury or death while they are serving under a valid employment contract or those which arise from their employment. (Sec. 44)

We however call for the inclusion of two very important provisions of HB 6588 in the final version of the substitute bill namely, the provision to ensure the security of tenure of all seafarers and fishers who have worked for a cumulative period of one year with the same employer.

II. The Substitute Bill HB 8057 must be modified to add the provision of HB 6588 in Title III Seafarers Rights, Section 3:

(b.) Decent working and living conditions on board, and security of tenure for those who have acquired regular employment status by working for a cumulative period of one year with the same employer, manning agent, or foreign and domestic shipowner.

The Substitute Bill HB 8057 must also be modified to incorporate HB 6588, Section 47. (c) :

(c)     The termination of employment of a seafarer on board a foreign vessel or foreign registered ships shall be governed by the POEA-SEC or applicable CBA, provided that a seafarer who has worked for the same manning agent or for the same shipowner or both, for a cumulative period of one year shall enjoy the security of tenure of a regular employee as per Art 279 of the Labor Code of the Philippines as amended,  and the employer is obligated to rehire and give the right of first refusal to a regular employee who qualifies, and is willing to work, for the next available vacant position of similar or higher rank.  Once a seafarer has acquired the regular status, he can no longer be refused successive employment unless he resigns in writing, has abandoned his employment, or is dismissed for just cause as provided in Art 282 of the Labor Code of the Philippines as amended.

This will ensure that Filipino seafarers will enjoy regular status after working for a cumulative period of one year and cannot be backlisted by their own employer for asserting their rights and claims.

  1. The fishers or crew of fishing vessels should not be excluded in the Substitute Bill. 

Fishers were the hardest hit by the COVID 19 crisis and many of them were stranded for months and abandoned by their shipowners.  We call for the inclusion of fishers and to modify the substitute bill to reflect the proposal under HB 6588 to include fishing vessels. 

Right now, seafarers on board fishing vessels are treated equally as other seafarers on cargo, tanker, passenger or cruise ships under the POEA Contract. Excluding them in this bill is a Diminution of Existing Benefits which is prohibited under Article 100 of the Labor Code of the Philippines as amended.

The mere fact that the fishing vessels are expressly excluded in the ILO Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 to which the Philippine is a signatory does not mean that we could not include them here in the Magna Carta because the ILO MLC 2006 is a global minimum standard and not a ceiling.  We can pass laws that upgrade and enhance workers rights over and above the global minimum standard set by the ILO MLC 2006 and other labor treaties.

  1. Prohibiting the Blacklisting of Seafarers.

An additional sentence may also be added to Section 3 (b.)  against blacklisting thus:  Any form of blacklisting of a seafarer by a former employer or by any person shall be prohibited and penalized under Section 69 of this law.

The section on penalties of the substitute bill must also be amended to cover blacklisting thus:

SEC. 69. Penalties for Violations of Inspection, Enforcements and Blacklisting.  – Any person who, without proper authorization, exercises the authority granted to the Secretary of Labor under Sections 38 and 39 of this Act, shall be punished with a fine of not less than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) nor more than Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00), or imprisonment of not less than one (1) year nor more than four (4) years, or both at the discretion of the court. The foregoing offense shall prescribe after five (5) years from its commission, or upon discovery of the violation by competent authorities. The same penalty shall be imposed on any person who is found guilty of blacklisting any seafarer. 

December 18, 2020 on the occasion of the International Migrants Day.

SEANetwork (Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network)

Joanna Concepcion – Migrante International

Atty. Edwin Dela Cruz- International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC)