CEBU, Philippines – Local shipowners and executives want seafarers of domestic vessels excluded for the proposed Magna Carta intended to lift Philippine maritime industry to international standards.
The group announced its objections during a public hearing of the House committee of overseas workers affairs held Thursday, February 2, at Bai Hotel in Mandaue City, Cebu.
The shipowners told lawmakers that they were concerned because the proposed legislation was being patterned after the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006, which imposes costly international standards.
“If you read all the provisions, they are all for international trade, for international ships …domestic ships are excluded, those from in-land territorial waters, that’s in the framework of the MLC,” Lucio Lim Jr., the chairman of the Philippine Coastline Shipping Association, told Rappler.
Lim said existing laws already protected the welfare of Filipinos in the maritime industry.
Under the proposed Magna Carta, all Filipino seafarers in both domestic and international waters would be given the right to just work conditions, self-organization, educational advancement, protection against discrimination, and free legal representation among others.
But the shipowners argued that it would be difficult to benchmark domestic inter-island vessels with international standards. They said abiding by these world-class norms would also put a strain on local maritime training institutions.
“Of course, the [legislators] would want the interest of the seafarers but as it is, domestic seafarers are already protected by local laws. The danger here is that requiring all of these things for domestic will prevent any of us, we cannot comply, from accepting apprentices,” Lim said.
He added: “We even wanted them (congressmen) to visit some of our ships so they can understand.”
In 2020, the European Maritime Safety Administration (EMSA) issued an audit report that gave a negative decision on the Philippines’ compliance with maritime safety standards. The EMSA report also mentioned inadequate training equipment and facilities.
Shipowners said the Magna Carta bill, if passed, would take a heavy toll on their finances.
For example, provision of the proposed bill mandates shipowners to provide separate cabins for cadets that they would be accepting for apprenticeships on their vessels.
Based on provisions from the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), cadets who perform work onboard vessels even when under training are considered seafarers.@rapplerdotcom— John Sitchon (@TheJohnSitchon) February 2, 2023
Shipowners said this would be a cash strain on maritime training schools as they will be forced to cut down on available slots for apprenticeships.
Nelson Ramirez of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) told Rappler that domestic vessels, compared to international vessels, do not have the capacity to create one cabin for each cadet that they accommodate.
“Why would I make more cabins if my ship is already very aged? I can’t even begin to measure the space to make more cabins,” Ramirez said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Kabayan Representative Ron Salo, chairperson of the committee on overseas workers affairs, acknowledged the shipowners’ claims and told Rappler that they would continue to hold discussions on the proposed Magna Carta.
“It’s just a question of whether or not we call it Magna Carta for seafarers inclusive or Magna Carta for international seafarers because of the motion for the exclusion of domestic Philippine registered ships,” Salo said.
Salo added that while they might consider the exclusion, the committee requested shipowners to boost their efforts in assisting maritime training schools.
“There are so many training institutions accepting students but they are not able to complete their cadetship…only 30% of these students are able to go on a cadetship program,” the congressman said.
Salo this was because of lack of available training vessels in the country. As of Wednesday, February 1, there are only 21 accredited maritime training schools offering approved maritime training courses for seafarers onboard domestic ships.
“Based on the arrangement or the shipowners’ commitment, they are willing to accept that 50% of the crew would be cadets, specifically for passenger ships, and 30% for cargo vessels,” Salo said. – Rappler.com
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