Senators back approval of Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers

Senators are rallying for the passage of the bill that proposes to institutionalize a Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers.

Senator Joel Villanueva (Senate PRIB)

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, said the measure serves as a "lifeboat of rights and privileges" for the overseas workers return of their contributions to the Philippines.

"This piece of legislation protects the rights of all men and women Filipino seafarers and recognizes their significant contributions to national progress, pride, and economic stability," Senator Joel Villanueva, said in sponsoring the measure during their plenary session Wednesday, September 1.

"There is no better time to pass a Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers that now," he appealed, citing "unprecedented hardships" brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2369 is a consolidation of seven Senate bills filed by Sens. Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Francis Tolentino.

Hontiveros said she is also optimistic that the bill would protect women seafarers from sexual abuse.

"Sexual harassment and abuse are persistent issues by these women seafarers, and I hope that as we craft this landmark legislative measure, we also also turn a shining light on their concerns and needs," said Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Gender Equality and Family Relations.

Senator Cynthia Villar, who also signified her interest to co-author the bill, also pointed out: "The trade of food, necessary medicines, medical supplies and equipment, and other essentials are facilitated with the continoues toil and sacrifice of our seafarers."

SB 2369 spells out the rights of Filipino seafarers, such as the right to just employment terms, decent working conditions, and dignified living environments, including medical care rest periods, among others.

They shall also be guaranteed the right to complete information on the exigencies of work engagement and to a standard employment contract, Villanueva said.

It cover all Filipino seafarers onboard Philippine or foreign-registered ships.

Villanueva said the bill also fulfills the standards set by international conventions and agreements on the occupational safety and health of seafarers, such as the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, which the Philippines ratified in August, 2012.

“We have devoted an entire chapter to medical care and maritime occupational safety and health standards," he told his colleagues.

As Hontiveros had cited, Villanueva said the bill also recognizes the increasing participation of women in the maritime sector. "That's why there is a section to protect women cadets. This includes anti-harassment, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies onboard ships," he said.

On the other hand, the bill assigns to the shipowner or the manning agency all costs related to the repatriation, including basic pay and allowances, since they are "partners in ensuring the rights of seafarers."

The bill also includes training to reintegration privileges for seafarers.

“Darating ang panahong hindi na sasampa ng barko ang isang seafarer sa iba't ibang kadahilanan. Kung mangyari po yan, ang Magna Carta ang aagapay sa kanya (Time will come that a seafarer will no longer board the ship for various reasons. If this happens, the Mgana Carta will be there to assist them),“ Villanueva said.