Solons seek ratification of 2007 ILO Agreement to save Filipinos from “slave-like” exploitation

Published February 12, 2021, 6:51 PM

by Ben Rosario

The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs has called on government to immediately ratify the International Labor Organization Work in Fishing Convention No. 188 that was adopted over 14 years ago to protect  fishing crew in foreign commercial vessels, many of them Filipinos currently facing  various abuses and exploitation, including “slave-like” working conditions.


In a virtual meeting Wednesday, the House panel chaired by TUCP Partylist Rep. Democrito C. Mendoza unanimously approved House Resolution 1152 urging government to ratify the WFC 188 that was adopted  during an ILO general conference which was reportedly attended by the Philippines.

Despite its adoption in 2007,  the WFC 188 was not completely  processed by the Philippines for approval by the president and  for subsequent confirmation by the Senae.

“Whereas, the ratification requirement of consultations with the stakeholders by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) , the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and other concerned government agencies have been going on and off since 2015, “ noted Mendoza.

He lamented that the plight of Filipino seafarers as fishing crew in foreign commercial fishing vessels “have long been ignored and unaddressed”, adding that the current novel coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic has raised the fact that they have been subjected to numerous acts of abuses, exploitation, unsafe and slave-like working conditions” while aboard commercial fishing vessels in international waters.

According to Mendoza work in commercial fishing vessels is considered to be “one of the world’s hazardous occupations”.  He pointed out that while Philippines continues to ignore ratification of the ILO WFC 188, “Filipino seafarers as fishing crew can be likened to jettisoning them overboard without any means of safeguards for safety and survival.”

ILO WFC 188 promotes labor standards to protect workers on board all commercial fishing vessels and provide flexibility for the largest and smallest boats.

Mendoza said the fishing industry provides jobs for some 35 million workers worldwide.

There are 4,225,000 Filipinos employed in the fisheries industry, representing 12.5 percent of the world total.

He said a total 18 countries have already ratified the WFC 188, while Philippines, “remains on the sidelines oblivious of the exploitation of Filipino seafarers in foreign fishing vessels”

“A Philippine ratification will not only ensure protection to Filipino seafarers onboard foreign fishing vessels but also provides assurance to markets of our tuna and its by-products of observance of the IUU (unreported and unregulated fishing) regulations,” Mendoza explained.

He stressed that the Philippine government  has the responsibility to its seafarers to ratify the ILO agreement so that it would set into motion the enactment of laws and regulatory mechanisms that will ensure their protection in the fishing industry “as well as the status of the Philippine fishing industry and its markets.”