LABOR Secretary Silvestre Bello III is pushing for the amendment to a 15-year-old maritime convention of the International Labour Organization to give global seafarers greater protection while in the high seas.
In a virtual address before maritime and seafaring industry leaders and advocates gathered in London last week, Bello said the existing ILO statute is ambiguous in providing fair treatment and protection to seafarers.
“(The Convention) only encourages the member-states to cooperate to facilitate the investigation of serious marine casualties. We need to act to correct such ambiguities in the code. We strongly recommend the amendment of the Maritime Labour Convention to recognize seafarers as key workers,” he said.
Bello was keynote speaker at the International Meeting on Future-Proofing of the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, also known as the seafarers’ bill of rights, organized by the International Maritime Organization based in the United Kingdom.
In his address, Bello said the pandemic has affected the global work landscape, including maritime labor.
“Hence, we must chart strategic and appropriate measures to continuously protect our seafarers in dealing with fresh opportunities as the world faces a new normal,” he stressed.
The labor chief noted that as a country that deploys thousands of seafarers each year, the fair treatment of sea-based workers is among the strongest advocacies of the Philippines, adding much has been done by the country to secure Filipino seafarers before and during the pandemic.
To name a few, Bello said the government has partnered with the Seafarers’ Rights International in 2018 to conduct a regional conference that produced the Manila Statement on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident.
“We also crafted and set into force the Guidelines for the Establishment of the Philippine Green Lane to Facilitate the Speedy and Safe Travel of Seafarers, including their Safe and Swift Disembarkation and Crew Change during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” he said.
Bello also added that an Interim Guidelines for the Facilitated Deployment and Repatriation of Filipino Seafarers during the National State of Emergency brought about by COVID-19 Pandemic was also instituted.
“We fully recognize our seafarers as essential workers who play a vital role in the economy which is why they are among the priority recipients in the government’s national Covid vaccination rollout,” he added.
The DOLE chief further reported that a measure is also being pushed in Congress to exempt Filipino seafarers from movement or travel restrictions, particularly when securing important travel and work documents.
“To protect them from the perils of the seas, crews must change regularly. Seafarers in need of medical attention must also be allowed to disembark, for humanitarian consideration. The loss of or damage to seafarers’ effects by marine peril has also been covered when the government developed the Philippine Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Overseas Employment of Filipino Seafarers On-Board Ocean-Going Ships,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bello assured the convention of the Philippine’s unwavering commitment to supporting the international seafaring and shipping community through the supply of highly sought, globally-competitive, skilled and reliable seafarers.
“I am confident that, despite the challenges that we are facing, we can build strong partnerships and multi-stakeholder cooperation to bring about meaningful change in the life and career of our dear seafarers,” he said.