SPONSORSHIP SPEECH of Senator Joel Villanueva on the bill establishing a Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers
Mr. President and distinguished colleagues:
I am greatly honored to sponsor a bill that will benefit more than one million Filipino seafarers and the domestic and global maritime industries. Parte po ito ng ating adbokasiya sa Senado na palawigin ang pagbibigay ng mabisa at agarang proteksyon sa ating mga kababayang Overseas Filipino Workers.
Senate Bill No. 2369 under Committee Report No. 289 or an “Act Instituting the Magna of Filipino Seafarers” is a consolidation of seven Senate Bills which were filed by Senator Nancy Binay, Senator Grace Poe, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Senator Bong Revilla, Senator Sonny Angara, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senator Francis Tolentino, and this representation.
Mr. President, this piece of legislation protects the rights of all men and women Filipino seafarers and recognizes their significant contributions to national progress, pride, and economic stability.
This measure also recognizes shipowners, maritime higher education institutions, and licensed manning agencies as partners in ensuring the rights of seafarers.
More importantly, Mr. President, the proposed “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers” aims at fulfilling standards set by international conventions and agreements regarding the working and living conditions, and occupational safety and health of seafarers. One of those conventions is the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, which the Philippines ratified on August 20, 2012.
This measure is addressed to all Filipino seafarers onboard Philippine or foreign-registered ships. However, the proposed Act does not cover those who work in warships, coast guard vessels, and other government vessels.
Ang panukalang batas pong ito ay para sa lahat ng Filipino seafarers na nasa iba’t-ibang timezones ngayon, saan mang karagatan sa buong mundo. Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa kanila sapagkat we know for a fact that they are listening and attentively watch our FB live.
Mr. President, where there is a sea, there will always be a Filipino seafarer. The Philippines belong to the top five countries with the highest numbers of seafarers in 2015. Prior to the pandemic, from 2016 to 2019, we deployed almost half a million seafarers every year, with the highest number in 2018, wherein we have 482,393 Filipino seafarers deployed worldwide. We are next to China as the largest supplier of seafarers. But, while China dominates the supply for officers, the Philippines tops the supply for ratings.
When I was at TESDA, we envisioned the Philippine maritime industry to dominate the market by supplying 50% of the world’s marine fleet by 2016. But getting the top spot for the Philippines is indeed a big challenge given the prominence of China in the global maritime industry. But I believe that we still can make this vision a reality, Mr. President.
May mga bangka o barko sa lahat ng ating mga dalampasigan. Hindi mabilang ang dami ng ating mga pantalan. Pangingisda at paggawa ng bangka ang isa sa mga pangunahing hanap-buhay sa ating mga kanayunan. Hindi nakapagtatakang marami sa ating mga kabataan ang kumukuha ng maritime courses sapagkat nasa dugong Pilipino ang pagka-mandaragat.
The ever-increasing demands for Filipino seafarers also gave rise to the more than 230 Maritime Education and Training Institutions or METIs that provide education and training to aspiring seafarers for careers in the maritime industry. It must be noted that the statistics of the Commission on Higher Education on the number of maritime students enrolled averaged at around 123,000 enrollees per year from 2010 to 2019, while the number of graduates per year is at an average of around 20,000.
As the former TESDA head, I believe that seafaring is one of the most sustainable occupations in the country because of our shipping knowledge and 7,640 islands – about 2,000 of which are inhabited.
Nagkaroon po ng magandang buhay ang halos lahat ng mga kakilala kong Tech-Voc gradutes na sumampa ng barko. Matibay din ang ating paniniwalang muling babalik ang sigla ng turismo sa paghupa ng pandemya, kaya’t ibayong tataas ang demand para sa husay ng Pilipinong mandaragat.
Mr. President and esteemed colleagues:
Section 7 of our proposed “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers” provides for the continuous educational advancement and training of all seafarers, especially women, at reasonable and affordable costs.
This representation notes that MARINA recorded 73,027 women seafarers with issued Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book as of December 2018. We want to find ways to encourage seafarers, especially women seafarers, to have opportunities for upskilling.
"This piece of legislation protects the rights of all men and women Filipino seafarers and recognizes their significant contributions to national progress, pride, and economic stability."
Dumako naman po tayo sa usapang remittances. Bago po tumama ang pandemya noong March 2020, umaabot sa $6 bilyong kada taon ang remittances ng mga Pinoy seafarers. Sa bawat $100 na padala ng mga Pinoy OFWs, $20 ang galing sa pawis at sakripisyo ng ating mga mandaragat.
In 2019, before the pandemic, we had 469,996 seafarers deployed worldwide. These maritime professionals remit a whopping $5.8 billion annually, contributing to the growth of the Philippine economy.
Ang supply at demand ay nakasalalay sa shipping industry. Mapipilay po ang ekonomiya ng mundo kapag sabay-sabay na bumaba ng barko ang mga Pilipino!
Mr. President, given the size of the country’s maritime sector and its substantial economic impact, our seafarers deserve the right to just employment terms, decent working conditions, and dignified living environments, including medical care rest periods, among others.
Maraming pangarap ang naisasakatuparan dahil sa mga kababayan nating nagbabarko. Hindi marapat na maging ‘sugal’ ang pagsampa nila sa barko. Dapat sigurado ang lahat nilang mga benepisyo.
That’s why Section 8 of this measure stipulates the right of Filipino seafarers to complete information on the exigencies of work engagement. Moreover, Section 25 prescribes that the seafarer receives a standard employment contract.
Tingnan naman po natin ang epekto ng COVID-19 sa mga seafarers:
Mr. President, the coronavirus pandemic puts the need for the Magna Carta for Seafarers in the spotlight. The number of deployed Filipino seafarers in 2020 was almost cut in half by 54% from 469,996 seafarers in the year 2019 to 217,223 seafarers. The number of repatriated seafarers from cruise ships, oil tankers, and other bulk vessels is likewise record-high.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been seeing the daily arrival of chartered flights carrying thousands of seafarers. Many of them had only been onboard their ships for weeks when the pandemic struck. They had no choice but to come home, uncertain when will they get a call again for work.
Because of the above reason, we devoted an entire chapter to medical care and maritime occupational safety and health standards. Chapter 9 of this measure.
Likewise, the bill grants protection of seafarers from epidemics, pandemics, and other public health emergencies, including the provision of personal protective supplies and equipment.
Bukod pa sa health and safety, malaki ang maitutulong ng Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers para tulungan ang mga marinong natetengga bago muling makasampa ng barko.
Halimbawa, ang kababayan nating marino na si Fred. Naglalayag po ang sinasakyan nilang cargo vessel sa Europa nang magsimula ang pandemya. Halos nakulong po sila sa loob ng barko nang ilang buwan bago sila nakauwi sa Pilipinas nito lang Enero 2021. Mahigit kalahating taon na po mula nang makabalik si Fred at kanyang mga kasamahan sa Pilipinas, at alam naman po natin na kapag walang byahe ang ating mga marino, wala rin silang kita.
The entire Chapter 12 of the measure stipulates on repatriation of Filipino seafarers, Mr. President. The Committee Report indicates that the shipowner or the manning agency concerned shall shoulder all costs related to the repatriation, including basic pay and allowances.
How can our seafarers not deserve a “Magna Carta” amid the pandemic, Mr. President? Ang malalaking alon, mga pirata, mabigat na trabaho sa barko, matinding kalungkutan ng mapalayo sa pamilya, at ang risks ng exposure sa virus ay ilan lamang sa mga sakripisyo ng mga Pinoy seafarer.
Some time ago, a Filipino ship captain was asked to describe the word and profession “seafarer”. This was what he said:
“I guess the seafaring profession is quite a unique one compared to other sources of income. The seafarer has to make the sacrifice to be away from home, family and friends. There are large burdens to be dealt with and the most critical one is called LONELINESS. He has to live and work daily in an isolated and limited space, seeing the same faces every time he wakes up in the morning all during his contract.”
Mr. President, the average period at sea for the ordinary seaman is nine months per year, and thus they are home only 2-3 months a year. The life of a seafarer is also like the waves of the ocean, which come and go. It is a cycle that affects them, their family, and their children.
Sa kabila ng lahat, darating at darating ang panahong hindi na sasampa ng barko ang isang seafarer sa iba’t ibang kadahilanan. That’s why we devoted the entire Chapter 13 for reintegration services that will cover the different dimensions of support needed by the seafarer.
Madalas panghimok ng mga maritime schools sa mga kabataan para mag-enrol sa kanila ay ‘yung parang may free ride ka as you tour the world. Kaya nga pagmamalaki ng isang Pinoy seaman: “In just six years, from 2014 to the present, nalibot na raw n’ya ang 150 countries!”
But seeing the world for free is NOT free from meeting a world of possibilities that include situations where abuses, depression, illnesses, and even death can happen. Mr President, the Bill adds more teeth and provides greater protection to seafarers, especially women cadets, through the adoption of an anti-harassment, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies onboard ship.
Mr. President, the Magna Carta of Seafarers has been a long time coming. It is a fulfillment of the Philippines’ obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006. Once enacted, the Philippines will be among the first countries in the world to have a domestic law which has special provisions concerning the plight of women seafarers.
Mr. President, there is no better time to pass a Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers than now as 2021 is chosen by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as “a year of ACTION for seafarers who are facing unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Ang “Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers” po ang magsisilbing ANGKLA para sa matatag na trabaho at magandang kinabukasan ng mga Pinoy seafarers at kanilang pamilya gayundin ng ating bansang binubuo ng libu-libong mga pulo at pinaliligiran ng mga karagatan.
Maraming salamat po, Ginoong Pangulo, and may God bless us all.