(Photo courtesy of Amosup.org.)

MANILA – As the government rushes to comply with the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) requirements, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday filed a bill that would provide better protection for Filipino seafarers.

Gatchalian said Senate Bill No. 822 or the creation of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers would not only provide protection to thousands of Filipino seafarers but competence through continued education and skills that comply with international standards.

The measure seeks to ensure that Filipino seafarers are continuously nurtured, protected, and guided by the government in terms of setting up mechanisms that can protect them even beyond the country’s borders, and recognize their rights, contributions, and unique role as essential maritime professionals.

The Senator’s move came in the wake of a deadline set this month by EMSA to some maritime schools in the country to comply with international standards on training and certification for seafarers which could lead to job losses if they continue to be non-compliant.

At least 50,000 Filipino seafarers working in European vessels are reportedly at risk of losing their jobs should the requirements are not met.

The proposed measure also seeks to ensure that Filipino seafarers are afforded the right to just terms and conditions of work, the right to educational advancement and training at reasonable and affordable costs, and the right to fair treatment in the event of a maritime accident, among others.

The bill also ensures that seafarers’ employment shall cease when they complete their period of contractual service.

Filipino seafarers continue to be one of the major suppliers of maritime labor globally and contributed at least USD6.54 Billion in 2021, or 21 percent of the country’s total remittances.

It is also estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every 4 to 5 crew members on board a vessel at any time. While there was a 54 percent drop in the total number of seafarers deployed overseas in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it was reported that the level of deployment in 2021 was almost the same as before the pandemic at around 40,000 deployments per month. (Leonel Abasola, PNA)