House OKs proposed Magna Carta for seafarers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — With 304 affirmative votes, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill that would protect the rights of seafarers before, during and after their deployment.

House Bill 7325 or the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers also aims to develop a pool of competent and world-class seafarers through a system of education, training and licensing. Four lawmakers voted against the measure.

HB 7325 covers Filipino seafarers “who are employed or engaged or work in any capacity on board foreign-registered ships and Philippine-registered ships operating internationally.”

According to the measure, Filipino seafarers have a right to:

-Safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards;

- Fair terms and conditions of employment;

- Decent working and living conditions on board a ship;

- Health protection, welfare measures, medical care;

- Self-organization;

- Information about seafarer’s family;

- Against discrimination;

- Educational advancement and training;

- Relevant information;

- Free legal representation;

- Appropriate grievance mechanism;

- Access to communication;

- Fair treatment in the event of a maritime accident;

- Fair medical assessment.

If passed into law, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) would be tasked to review and approve the standard employment contract (SEC) to ensure its provisions adhere to or protect the rights of seafarers.

In case of a pandemic or endemic, the bill states that seafarers should be entitled to “medical care, board and lodging for periods spent by a seafarer in quarantine or self-isolation,” as well as “hospitalization and medical treatment when the seafarer is sick or infected – until declared as fully recovered.”

They would also be entitled to adequate compensation in the case of injury, loss or unemployment arising from the ship’s loss or foundering, in accordance with the SEC or the collective bargaining agreement.

The Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration would also be mandated to establish seafarer welfare facilities or centers in major crew-change ports, specifically in Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City, and other areas.

The bill also proposes the creation of a “one stop shop” for seafarers, which would have representatives from government agencies that process or issue licenses, permits, clearances, and other documents required by seafarers.