Job Security and Regularization of Seafarers Amidst Crisis Tackled in Online Forum of Newly Organized Group SEA NETWORK (28 November 2020)

A newly formed group of advocates for seafarers rights and welfare held an Online Forum via Zoom and Facebook this afternoon to support House Bill 6588 that ensures the regularization of seafarers and a stop to contractualization.  The group of Convenors of the seafarers summit organized themselves into a new online collective known as the  Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network or SEANetwork who went all out in support of HB 6588 proposed by Congressman Ferdinand Gaite  of Bayan Muna and the Makabayan Bloc.

Bishop Antonio Ablon of IFI or Iglesia Filipina Independiente and based in Europe, one of the organizers of the network, began with an update of the distressed and precarious condition of employment of seafarers and how the Security of Tenure provision regularizing all seafarers who have worked for a cumulative period of one year will address this problem.  Ka Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU Chairman discussed the problem of contractualization of workers and supported HB 6588 that will end the contractualization of Filipino seafarers.

Cong. Ferdinand Gaite who authored the bill discussed the fact that there is now a substitute bill in Congress called House Bill 8057 which is also titled Magna Carta of Seafarers but this did not contain the most important provision of HB 6588 on Security of Tenure and regularization of seafarers.  Reacting from a later question of Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director of SPA Shelter-Free Help for Migrant Workers in Taiwan regarding the legal protection of the crew of fishing vessels, Atty. Edwin Dela Cruz remarked that under HB 6588, fishing crew are included but they are excluded in the substitute bill HB 8057.  This must be amended and corrected before the bill becomes a law.

Ms. Lala Tolentino  of Mission to Seafarers (Philippines) emphasized the fear of seafarers now of being blacklisted by their employers and of being refused to be rehired during the Covid 19 crisis, and how the security of tenure provision of HB 6588 could prevent this problem. 

Fr. Herbert Fadriquela IFI, of Mission to Seafarers UK shared the problems of seafarers of being stranded on board the vessels, lack of communication link with families, and low wages.  The most important thing in helping them is to empower them to fight for their rights and welfare. Rudy Batas of Migrante Philippines emphasized the need to form genuine organizations and unions of seafarers that they can use as platforms to defend their rights and protect them during the times of crisis, unemployment and abuse from their employers.

Fr. June Mark Yanez IFI Port Chaplain of Rostock German Mission to Seafarers launched his new music video entitled Mandaragat online,  also in support of House Bill 6588.

The group agreed to continue the call for security of tenure and the amendment of the new substitute bill HB 8057 to include the most important provisions of HB 6588 that were obviously left out in the committee version of the law. They also united to expand the campaign in the Senate where parallel versions of the Magna Carta of Seafarers have been filed. Ms. May Jose of Mission to Seafarers Family Club hosted the event. 

Carmelita Baltazar of Migrante International (Australia) introduced and launched the SEANetwork. This started as an informal group of advocates of seafarers rights who worked together to address the plight of distressed, stranded, and quarantined seafarers starting from the Diamond Princess crew, and later on the crew of Artania, Grand Princess, the fishing vessels Star Mariner, Ocean Star, Hong Ran, and those stranded seafarers in Uruguay. The network includes  advocates and leaders from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) led by His Eminence Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang, the IFI port chaplaincy in United Kingdom, Germany and Thailand, the Mission to Seafarers,  the MTS Family Club, Migrante International, United Methodist Church and the International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC)