Manalo bill a lifesaver

HIDDEN AGENDA - The Philippine Star

The Philippines is the main supplier of seamen to the global shipping and transport market since 1987. Filipino seafarers, whose numbers have increased to about 460,000 as of 2013, are recruited to man tankers and sea vessels worldwide. According to the Department of Labor and Employment, Filipino seamen comprised more than 25 percent of mariners worldwide, the single biggest nationality bloc in the shipping industry.

And this number keeps growing as there are around 280,000 students who graduate from maritime schools every year.

And their contribution to the Philippine economy is beyond dispute.  According to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the total of financial remittances sent to the Philippines by overseas Filipino seamen was $2.5 billion during the first nine months of 2009.

Unfortunately, these same seafarers are known to have suffered from abuses from people who are supposed to know better and to protect them– lawyers.

When some of these seafarers get sick, they have to hire lawyers just to get their benefits from their employers. Unfortunately, they are charged so much by these lawyers that these seamen lose everything in the process.

Seafarers working with international shipping firms are known to be well-compensated but this same fact makes them easy targets for ambulance chasing which is defined as the solicitation of legal business for the purpose of gain either personally or through paid agents or brokers which is prohibited by the Code of Professional Responsibility of the legal profession. These lawyers or their representatives literally wait in hospitals or airports for injured seafarers to offer their services to them.

To protect our seafarers from such abusive practices, Angkla Partylist Rep. Jessie Manalo, the lone representative of the maritime sector in the House of Representatives, filed a bill that seeks to protect seafarers and other workers against ambulance chasing. The proposal passed third reading in the House of Representative on Dec. 15, 2014.

Meanwhile, a counterpart Anti-Ambulance Chasing measure was filed in the Senate by Senator Sonny Angara and was approved by the Senate  last Sept. 21.

It is said that at present, ambulance chasing lawyers offer legal services to these seafarers on a contingency basis which means they get paid only when they are able to successfully recover. In exchange, however, the lawyer gets as much as 60 percent of the monetary award.

Under the new Act, which is expected to become law very soon, lawyers’ bills will be capped at 10 percent and lending to claimants will be prohibited.

According to Manalo, the measure now known as the Seafarers Protection Bill penalizes parties found in violation of the statute through a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000, or by imprisonment of one year but not more than two years, or both fine and imprisonment.

Just like other overseas Filipino workers (OFW), our seafarers need all the protection they can get. Their many hours, days, and months of being lonely out there in the sea away from their families and loved ones just to give them a better future should not be put to waste.

One big family

Sometimes, companies become so focused on making profits that they forget their core values along the way.

There is one Filipino company however that has stayed true to its core values.

For seven decades, the country’s oldest Filipino-owned tobacco manufacturer Mighty Corporation has stayed true to its core values of  M-I-G-H-T-Y which stands for malasakit (concern), integrity, goal-oriented, highly-committed, teamwork and Yahweh (faith) instilled by its founder Mr. Wong Chu King.

In 1945, Mr. Wong Chu King and his partners Ong Lowa, Baa Dy, and Ong Pay set up La Campana Fabrica de Tabacos Inc., which had it first factory in Tayabas St., Manila. The second factory was then built in 1948 in Pasong Tamo, Makati, and in 1951, it acquired the present site of its head office.

In 1963, Wong Chu King founded the Tobacco Industries of the Philippines (TIP) in a nine-hectare property in Barrio Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan which became the future site of their manufacturing operations.

The succeeding years became difficult for the company but the ingenious Wong Chu King together with the unwavering support of his employees reestablished the company in 1985 to become Mighty Corp.

According to Rosario Marigomen, who has been with the company for the last 52 years and considers Mighty Corp. more of a big family than a business, the founder saw this culture of dedication and hard work and made sure that every employee and worker was appreciated.

Mighty gives back to its employees, distributors and tobacco farmers by aiding their livelihood and sending deserving children to school.

Today, the company continuously inspires the lives of about 293,000 families of its employees, business and trade partners. And that has been the secret to its business success.

Too many regulations

The Philippine mining industry is considered one of the most regulated and taxed industries in the world.

One of the reasons is we have the national and local governments that both regulate mining companies.

A study by the Oxford Business Group also noted that despite the Philippines’ veritable stockpile of mineral wealth, it has yet to take full advantage of its natural resources as a result of uncertainty over mining regulations. Executive Order no. 79 issued in 2011 with the intention of clarifying inconsistences in existing mining regulations, primarily governed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, has yet to make a substantial impact on the sector as its accompanying implementation legislation is still incomplete due to different interests struggling to reach an agreement on a host of issues, including environmental regulations, the role of LGUs, taxation, the structure of exploratory and production leases, among others.

Take the case of the industry in Zambales where a number of mining companies namely LnL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Benguet Corp Nickel Mines Inc. and Eramen Minerals Inc. were closed due to supposed mineral leakage from their operations that has turned the color of the downstream river into reddish brown.

But some geologists opined that is only natural for the soil in mining areas to cascade into the downstream during heavy rains and cause the color of the water to turn reddish brown. The area, they say, is rich in nickel laterite which makes the soil incapable of harboring trees which could have helped mitigate soil erosion. This means that even without mining, the river’s color will always turn reddish brown when it rains.

And then recently, these mining firms were allowed to reopen by the Zambales LGU led by Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane in exchange for their participation in building ‘haul roads.’ 

But these firms are not required by law to build these roads. They have already heavily invested in building infrastructure and taking care of the indigenous people.

There are also claims that unscrupulous people have been approaching these mining companies, using the name of the governor, the DENR Secretary, and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief, to extort money in exchange for allowing them to resume operations. One such person has been reported in the social media and even in print media and according to Ebdane, he knows the person (they have also been seen together) but denies authorizing him to approach these companies on his behalf.

In such a case, what are these mining companies supposed to do? Have some agencies/offices been using “regulations” to force these firms to the wall?

For comments, e-mail at [email protected]


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