Magna carta for seafarers sought amid possible exodus during economic crisis

Magna carta for seafarers sought amid possible exodus during economic crisis
Filipino seafarers shows thumb up sign during the inaguarion of Seafarer center in Manila, 22 December 2006. Filippino seamen work on ships all over the world and the money they send back home is a major source of foreign exchnage in thie poverty-stricken country. AFP PHOTO/JOEL NITO

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations and their families is calling on Filipino lawmakers to pass a law that will ensure seafarers' safety at sea, noting that the economic crisis may push more to pursue careers on the world's ships.

In 2021, the Philippines topped the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s list of the world’s largest source of seafarers. An estimated 700,000 Filipino seafarers are deployed on seagoing vessels and over a fourth of the global merchant shipping crew members are Filipinos.

"The current economic crisis has seen the peso plummeting to historical lows, chronic unemployment worsening, and that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime promoting labor export," Migrante International said in a statement on Thursday, World Maritime Day.

“All these could only mean more Filipinos going out of the country to find jobs, including working as seafarers.” 

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday also commemorated World Maritime Day, highlighting that the Philippines is a seafaring nation committed to following a rules-based order on maritime issues and advocating to address marine pollution. 

What should the magna carta for seafarers include?

Migrante International said they already brought up their concerns to the Senate this year and the House of Representatives in 2019. Among the provisions Migrante International is lobbying include the following:

  • Magna carta should also protect seafarers aboard ocean-going fishing vessels and those who are just about to start work
  • No contractualization of seafarers and, like the labor code provision, regularization of a seafarer after a year’s worth of service
  • Remove “work-related” restrictions to financial claims of seafarers who end up sick, injured, or deceased while serving

The coalition is also hoping that lawmakers take note of what is already provided for by the International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, which also sets minimum wage standards, tackles seafarers’ employment agreements, onboard medical care, and repatriation at the end of contract.

“It must be a continuation, if not an advance — and definitely not a regression compared to the ILO-MLC,” Migrante said.

Several lawmakers at the Senate have already filed their own versions of the magna carta of Filipino seafarers.

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