Joel Villanueva

Lifeboat of rights for OFWs pushed

September 2, 2021 Marlon Purification 306 views

SENATOR Joel Villanueva stressed that Filipino seafarers deserve a “lifeboat of rights and privileges for helping keep the economy afloat with their P1 billion a day remittance.

Decades since the Philippines became a “shipping manning superpower,” Villanueva said it is time “to put aboard one vessel all the rules that will protect the welfare” of an estimated 500,000 Filipino seafarers.

With Filipinos representing “the biggest nationality bloc” in world shipping, “codifying the rules that protect them is made more pressing by a pandemic which has placed a heavy stress on their health and livelihood.”

Sponsored by Villanueva and co-authored by six of his colleagues, Senate Bill No. 2369 spans all aspects of a seafarer’s career, from training to retirement, and covers all the institutions in between, from maritime schools and manning agencies to welfare funds.

“The Magna Carta lives up to its name as a forward-looking measure that responds to rising trends in the maritime world, like the growing participation of women, ” Villanueva said.

“Kaya po may section to protect women cadets. Kabilang na rin ang mga anti-harassment, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies onboard ships,” he said.

He said the bill fulfills 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.

Rights to just employment terms, decent working conditions, and dignified living environments, including medical care rest periods, among others, are enumerated in the bill, said Villanueva.

Among the specific provisions are the rights to complete information on the exigencies of work engagement and to a standard employment contract, he explained.

Because seafaring is fraught with danger, “we have devoted an entire chapter to medical care and maritime occupational safety and health standards,” Villanueva added.

In between deployments, the Magna Carna enumerates what services a seafarer can access.

“Bukod pa sa health and safety, malaki po ang maitutulong ng Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers para tulungan ang mga marinong natetengga bago muling makasampa ng barko,” he said.

The bitter lessons of the pandemic have made their way into the proposed law, with an entire chapter dealing on the repatriation of Filipino seafarers, Villanueva said.

The bill assigns to the shipowner or the manning agency all costs related to the repatriation, including basic pay and allowances.

Recognizing the seamen will “spend the sunset of their lives on land,” the bill spells out reintegration services in Chapter 13.

“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, ” he said.

Villanueva expects the Senate to unanimously approve the bill. “Maraming divergence sa ibang issues, pero pagdating sa batas na ito, united po tayo at walang hidwaan.”