10 March 2023
Migrante International rejects the watered-down version of the Magna Carta for Seafarers recently passed by the House of Representatives as House Bill 7325. We say no to HB 7325, an anti-seafarer bill! This bill is a travesty on the rights of seafarers. It excludes fishers, does not provide for security of tenure, excludes domestic seafarers in many important provisions and, worse, includes an anti-seafarer provision on Escrow (Section 51).
HB 7325 is a far cry from the original bill supported by Migrante International which is HB 4438 proposed by Hon. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party and Makabayan Bloc. Under said bill, fishers are included, all domestic seafarers are covered, and there is a guarantee on the security of tenure of all seafarers who have worked for at least one year in one company. No wonder, even one of the proponents of the Magna Carta, Hon. Brosas, voted No in the final reading of the watered-down bill HB 7325.
>> Migrante International stands with fishers who are already accorded the rights to be treated as seafarers under the POEA Rules and Regulations. They were the ones who suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic and who are most exploited and abused. Their exclusion in HB 7325 is a diminution of their existing rights under Philippine laws.
>> The security of tenure afforded by the Labor Code of the Philippines to employees who have worked for at least one year cumulative is also absent in the said bill.
>> Domestic seafarers who are also covered by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 are expressly excluded in some provisions of the watered-down bill.
>> There is also an unconstitutional rider in HB 7325 Section 51 on Escrow, which mandates that money awards won by seafarers in the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) or the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) will not be released to them in full. Instead, the money will be deposited in Escrow the amount of which shall be determined solely by the employer, manning agency and shipowner. The money will only be released after the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court has finally decided that the money should be given to the seafarer. This is too much! Cases in the NLRC and NCMB last for one to two years. After that period, the money judgment is given to the seafarer. Under this Escrow provision, seafarers will have to wait for so many years for the Court of Appeals and later on the Supreme Court to review the case.
This is a discrimination against seafarers violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. While other OFWs and local workers can immediately get their winnings after the NLRC Commission or the NCMB has ruled with finality, now, under Escrow, the seafarers must wait for many years for the Court of Appeals and later the Supreme Court to finally decide on their cases. This would add at least four to six years for seafarers to wait, if they can still wait for justice to be served.
This is a threat not only to seafarers but to all OFWs and local workers. If they can violate the Labor Code of the Philippines this time by imposing an Escrow against seafarers, what would prevent the manning agencies and the local businesses to impose this Escrow on all OFWs and all Filipino workers here and abroad?
HB 7325 is an addition to the burdens shouldered by Filipino migrants and the Filipino people. Filipino migrants are already burdened with various state exactions in the form of mandatory fees, and HB7325, instead of advancing seafarers’ rights, is reducing the basic rights of seafarers. By doing so, and if it becomes a law, HB 7325 will help strengthen the government’s labor export program which in reality treats Filipino migrants as commodities devoid of the most basic of rights.
Migrante International joins hands with all seafarers, OFWs and workers against these attacks on workers rights. We reject the compromised HB 7325 which claims to be a Magna Carta for Seafarers which in fact, will protect the corporate greed of manning agencies and foreign shipowners exploiting the country’s seafarers.
We shall fight for seafarers’ rights and for a Genuine Magna Carta for Seafarers. We demand the rejection of these nefarious insertions and omissions by the Senate in its version of the Magna Carta. We call on all seafarers, OFWs and workers to unite and oppose these attacks on Filipino labor.###
No to House Bill 7325!
Yes to seafarers’ and fishers’ rights!
Yes to security of tenure for seafarers!
Fight for a genuine pro-seafarer Magna Carta!