Magna Carta of Seafarers: A win-win formula

Let’s give credit where credit is due. The House of Representatives deserves a warm pat on the back for acting swiftly in favor of the Filipino seafarers and the manning industry.

Last 6 March, most members of the House voted to approve on third and final reading the historic House Bill 7325 or the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, sponsored by KABAYAN Partylist Rep. Ron Salo, chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs. The bill will serve as the national version of the Maritime Labor Convention 2006.

It was historic since this is only the first time in over a decade that employers’ groups have thrown their support behind the proposed Magna Carta. Since the 14th Congress, when the first versions of the bill were filed, seafarers’ and employers’ groups had been locked in endless debates over the bill, preventing its passage into law.

Some groups painted employers of Filipino seafarers, represented by manning agencies, as “anti-Filipino seafarers” despite the fact they had fully supported the MLC since it became international law in 2013.

This escrow provision, without doubt, is a win-win formula in favor of both seafarers and the manning industry in contrast to what some groups claimed.

They forget that, without foreign employers, there will be no Filipino seafarers on board the international fleets. Both the seafarers and their employers, through manning agencies, are the indispensable players that make up the Philippine seafaring industry.

When even one employer leaves the country to search for a crew in other countries, Filipino seafarers lose their jobs. It is also a loss to the manning industry.

So those who caused employers to leave the country are doing a disservice to the seafaring industry and the country as well since our remittances that fuel our economy also decline.

This rampant illegal practice of ambulance chasing is the real culprit. It is the major reason employers are leaving the country, causing an untold loss in seafarer jobs over the years.

For the first time, HB 7325 seeks to protect Filipino seafarers against the threat of losing their jobs. It intends to achieve this through Section 51, the only version of the Magna Carta that contains such a provision.

Section 51 provides for the creation of an escrow, a legal instrument in which a third party temporarily holds money claims until a higher court makes a final decision on seafarers’ claims.

Lawmakers, however, realized that the provision could put seafarer claimants in a disadvantageous position; hence, they added an important provision that says: “The amount in escrow shall not include claims for salaries, statutory monetary benefits, or those originally determined by the employer or manning agency to be legally due to the seafarer.”

Hence, it should be emphasized that only the contested amount beyond what is due them under their contract should be held in escrow, in case they opted to seek higher claims.

So, through escrow, seafarers will have immediate access to money which they can use for their families’ needs while the contested part of their claims is undergoing litigation.

They can fully enjoy the benefits guaranteed in their contract which they will get even without the need for lawyers. Thus, the escrow protects seafarers against lawyers who intend to get a bigger share even from the benefits due them.

Through escrow, seafarers no longer have to depend on the “cash assistance” offered by ambulance chasers with usurious interest rates.

This escrow provision, without doubt, is a win-win formula in favor of both seafarers and the manning industry in contrast to what some groups claimed.

The seafaring industry is grateful to the lawmakers, especially to Rep. Salo and OFW Partylist Rep. Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino, for not giving in to calls to exclude the escrow from HB 7325.

This win, nonetheless, is only in the bigger chamber; the Magna Carta versions in the Senate do not have the escrow provision.

So, seafarers hope and pray our good senators, especially Senate Committee on Migrant Workers Chairman, Sen. Raffy Tulfo, will also find the wisdom of the escrow provision of HB 7325 for the interest of our seafarers and manning agencies that make up the seafaring industry.

Read more Daily Tribune stories at:

Follow us on social media
Facebook: @tribunephl
Youtube: TribuneNow
Twitter: @tribunephl
Instagram: @tribunephl
TikTok: @dailytribuneofficial