Several international maritime and shipping organizations on Monday raised concerns over ambulance chasers or lawyers who solicit Filipino seafarers and urge them to pursue claims.
At a virtual press conference spearheaded by the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Director of Employment Affairs Natalie Shaw stressed the importance of addressing the issue, admitting that it has influenced decisions of foreign maritime companies when it came to hiring Filipino seafarers.
“In recent years, the number of cases of ambulance chasing has been a real concern to a lot of major shipment companies and shipping companies,” said Shaw.
“It is important to us that the system is reviewed to make sure that appropriate measures are put in place and to mitigate these situations of ambulance chasing so that Filipino seafarers can be seen as a viable option in the global fleet,” she added.
ICS Senior Manager (Policy and Employment Affairs) Helio Vicente also said that ambulance chasing affected their workforce as their global percentage of Filipino seafarers dropped from 20% to 14.44%.
Meanwhile, International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) Chief Executive Officer Francesco Gargiulo said that ambulance chasing was “the single biggest issue that the industry faces in the Philippines,” which was why a number of their employers also decided to shift their manpower source outside the Philippines, settling for less qualified workers.
“It’s a very frustrating issue because it’s something that we see huge amounts of money being siphoned off and ended up outside of the industry because the worst thing with ambulance chasing is that the money that employers pay to compensate fraudulent claims ends up mostly in the pocket of lawyers,” he said.
This problem was acknowledged by Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, saying that it has been a “continuing concern” for the country.
“This is being dealt with by the Executive Branch in partnership with the Judicial Branch,” she said.
She also raised hopes of having this issue addressed as Congress works on the possible enactment of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers.
“Once this law is enacted and the implementation gets underway, I think there will be further stability in the maritime and the international maritime sector which is precisely what the European shipowners and also the international transport union are looking forward—that kind of stability by law and in practice,” Ople said.
Under the law, any person found guilty of ambulance chasing would be fined P50,000 to P100,000, or imprisoned for one to two years, or both.
Meanwhile, the international maritime and shipping groups
welcomed the European Commission's continued recognition of Philippine seafarer certificates. — DVM, GMA Integrated news