The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday asked the Senate to immediately pass a bill protecting over 300,000 Filipino seafarers around the world.
During a Senate hearing on the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, Labor Assistant Secretary Joji Aragon said there is a need for the Philippines to enact a law that will "seal the standards and provisions" for Filipino seafarers and their families.
"There is already a consensus among stakeholders that there is indeed a need for the promotion of the rights of seafarers ... We support the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers in full," Aragon said during the Senate hearing.
She added that the Philippines – the biggest supplier of seafarers in the world – is obliged to pass the bill protecting its maritime workers since it ratified the Maritime Labor Convention in 2006.
The DOLE official particularly underscored the need to legislate standard hours of work and rest for Filipino seafarers.
Under Senate Bill 21, authored by Senate labor committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada, a Filipino seafarer's normal hours of work "shall be eight hours but in no case exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period."
The measure also states that Filipino seafarers are entitled to at least 10 hours of rest in a 24-hour period, and a minimum of 2.5 calendar days of paid leave per month.
Enactment in 16th Congress
During the hearing, Estrada assured the DOLE that the Senate will pass the Magna Carta of Seafarers during the 16th Congress.
"We will make this a priority, because this bill is imperative. We are optimistic that this will pass, since stakeholders have already extended support for the Magna Carta of Seafarers," Estrada told labor officials during the hearing.
But Rodolfo Estampador of the Confederation of Maritime Manning Agencies said during the Senate proceedings that there is still a need to limit the number of government agencies involved in the implementation of the measure.
"There are so many government agencies involved in the implementation of the bill. There are already overlapping functions," Estampador said.
Under Estrada's bill, nine agencies shall implement the Magna Carta of Seafarers, including the DOLE, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Health and the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency.
Estrada called for a technical working group next week to introduce amendments suggested by stakeholders during the Senate hearing. — RSJ, GMA News