House prioritizes legislation to benefit Filipino seamen

By Zaldy De Layola

December 2 2022, 7:51 pm

<p>Batasang Pambansa. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Batasang Pambansa. (File photo)

MANILA – House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Friday highlighted the importance of enacting laws to improve the educational system for the maritime industry.

He said this as he vowed that his leadership in the House of Representatives is committed to prioritizing the approval of measures that would benefit Filipino seafarers across the globe.

During the 20th commencement exercises of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) in Mariveles, Bataan province, Romualdez expressed commitment that the House is giving “top priority” to the passage of the proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers.

“In fact, it was among the 32 legislative measures specified as a priority under the common legislative agenda of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said Romualdez, representing the 1st District of Leyte.

He said the list was agreed upon in the first meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council last Oct. 10, which was presided over by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

Romualdez told MAAP graduates, students, faculty and officials that the other measures pending in the House included the proposed Maritime Education and Training Act, which seeks to adopt a modern maritime education and training regime and support the needs of maritime students and professionals.

Another is the International Maritime Instrument Domestication Act, which calls for the full and effective implementation and enforcement of international maritime instruments and other international conventions, to which the Philippines is a state party, he added.

Romualdez said he and colleagues in Congress are aware of the importance of the seafaring sector to the economy, the country being one of the largest suppliers of manpower to the maritime industry.

He said MAAP and other maritime schools “help our economy afloat in trying times by producing world-class seafarers, who continue to make us proud in the global arena. There aren’t even enough Filipino sailors to fill a growing demand for their skills and credentials."

“In the field of education, the goal is to produce graduates who are globally competitive, hence, it is imperative that laws are enacted to improve the educational system, prepared for any internal and global crises that may come our way,” he said.

The purpose of the proposed Magna Carta (or Great Charter), according to Romualdez, is three-fold:

- To protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipino seafarers by providing one code of laws that shall contain their duties, rights, entitlements and privileges as well as the duties and obligations of the shipowners and manning agencies;

- To improve the working conditions and terms and conditions of employment and ensure the socio-economic well-being of Filipino seafarers; and

- To serve as implementing legislation of the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, which was ratified by the Philippines on Aug. 13, 2012.

“Through this measure, we seek to institutionalize the protection of Filipino seafarers’ rights to legitimate concerns such as just terms and conditions of work and safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; free legal consultation and representation; and appropriate accommodation, recreational facilities, proper and adequate nutrition on board in order to protect and promote health and physical, emotional and psychological well-being of seafarers," Romualdez said.

The Magna Carta law draft also proposes the adoption and implementation of anti-harassment and anti-bullying measures to protect seafarers’ onboard ships, and provides financial and credit assistance to them, especially in times of pandemics and other emergencies.

The proposed legislation likewise mandates normal work and rest hours, paid annual leave, facilitation by the shipowner of the remittance of wages, limitations on wage deductions, social-welfare benefits and medical care on board ships and ashore.

“I take the liberty of explaining these initiatives of the 19th Congress with you so you are aware of what is in store for you after graduation and upon formal entry to the country’s workforce,” the Speaker told members of the MAAP graduating class.

He congratulated and wished them “a successful future in the maritime industry.”

“This year's graduating class deserves a standing ovation for not letting the pandemic lead you to veer off course or put undue pressure on you. This entailed courage, focus, determination and inspiration from loved ones. You will now leave the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific having gained knowledge and concrete advantage of an academic degree that is recognized all over the world,” he said.

Romualdez applauded the graduates’ parents “for all the sacrifices you made to raise your children and provide for their needs. Looking back, it was all worth it.”

“To the faculty and staff of MAAP, as you continue in your noble profession, keep in mind that the members of the House of Representatives are your partners in molding world-class maritime leaders, experts and professionals,” Romualdez said. (PNA)