29 September 2022
Just a few weeks ago, senators Raffy Tulfo, Bong Go and Robin Padilla made positive statements about the proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers in the Senate. At the same time, progressive partylist Gabriela Women’s Party has already filed a proposed bill on the matter in the House of Representatives.
For the quarter of a million Filipino seafarers, who also constitute a quarter of the world’s seafarers, Migrante International is calling on the country’s legislators: pass a Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers that will advance seafarer’s rights!
Filipino seafarers urgently need a Magna Carta of their rights. The current economic crisis has seen the peso plummeting to historical lows, chronic unemployment worsening, and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime promoting labor export. All these could only mean more Filipinos going out of the country to find jobs, including working as seafarers. The Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers is a positive, if a short-term, measure. Measures such as this that will protect and secure migrant Filipinos’ rights are most needed and welcome.
The International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention (ILO-MLC) of 2006 already stipulates many seafarers’ rights. The proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers must advance seafarers’ rights on the basis of the ILO-MLC. It must contain all the rights already stipulated in the ILO-MLC or retain existing pro-seafarer rights under the Labor Code of the Philippines and the POEA Rules. It must be a continuation, if not an advance — and definitely not a regression compared to the ILO-MLC.
In this light, Migrante International is reiterating the provisions that it asserts must be contained by a Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers, even as it supports the proposed law. Our organization has written both the Senate (on September 14, 2022) and House of Representatives (on November 12, 2019) to push for these proposals, complete with their actual formulations:
(1) Include seafarers onboard ocean-going fishing vessels in the Magna Carta’s protection! The ILO-MLC does not include these seafarers, but it is a minimum standard, not a ceiling of seafarers’ rights. The Magna Carta can and must advance from the ILO-MLC in this regard. The POEA Contract covers them together with seafarers on cargo, tanker, passenger or cruise ships. Removing them from the proposed Magna Carta is a regression in the rights that they have attained and been given. This is a diminution of existing benefits, which is prohibited under the country’s Labor Code.
Together with other seafarers, seafarers in ocean-going fishing vessels have suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic crisis. They must not be left behind in a law that aims to enshrine the rights of the entire sector. They are often exploited and oppressed under slave-like conditions, and urgently need the protection of their rights.
(2) No to contractualization of seafarers, uphold their security of tenure! Like many Filipino workers, many seafarers are denied regular status, even if they have worked for manning agencies and shipowners for many years. Their security of tenure is limited to their short-term contracts, and they are denied separation and retirement pay. As in the case of many Filipino workers, this state of affairs makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. They are also vulnerable to being removed from work and blacklisted from future employment when they assert their rights.
The Labor Code provision about regularization after one year of service, continuous or not, must be reiterated in the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers. Amidst the spread of precarious short-term work in the Philippines and the world, any guarantee for workers’ fundamental right to security of tenure must be assured.
(3) Remove “work-related” restrictions to access to financial claims of seafarers who became sick or injured and who died during the contract or who get disabled or died due to causes sustained when they were still under employment contract.
(4) Seafarers who are about to be engaged in work should also be included in the coverage of the Magna Carta.
In commemorating the World Maritime Day 2022, we are calling on the Senate and House of Representatives to engage and dialogue with civil society organizations that seek to advance seafarers’ rights through the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers. Among these organizations are MIGRANTE International and SEANetwork (Seafarers Empowerment Advocates Network). The provisions that they want included in the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers are of utmost and urgent importance to the sector whose rights the document seeks to protect. ###