The Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers is now within reach as the Senate approves the Bill for a third and final reading.
President Marcos recently stamped the bill “urgent“, assuring the global community of the Philippines’ commitment to meeting its obligations.
But beyond the promises this Bill is making waves right now, what are the unexpected benefits we can get within the Magna Carta?
What is the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers?
Also known as Senate Bill No. 2221, the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers aims to protect the rights and welfare of Filipino seafarers, both local and overseas.
It’s our Seafarer Bill of Rights Filipino version.
If you are familiar with the Maritime Labor Convention 2006, you’ll recognize that numerous provisions mirror those outlined in that convention.
So, we will discuss the unique ones of our Magna Carta and delve deeper into the specific provisions while emphasizing a few points found in MLC 2006.
7 Interesting Provisions Found in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers
Senate Bill No. 2221 encompasses an extensive framework comprising 19 chapters and 92 provisions encapsulated within a concise 45-page PDF file.
For those eager to explore the intricate details and nuances of the Bill, the entire text is available through the provided link.
Otherwise, let’s get to the most exciting provisions I discovered in our Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers.
1. Filipino Seafarers working on fishing vessels are excluded from this Bill.
There may be some exceptions to this exception, but it’s right there from the start. Section 3 of MCFS (Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers) highlights the coverage and exemptions of that Act.
Here is the complete list of categories to which this Bill does not apply:
- Naval auxiliaries
- Coast Guards
- Government ships
- Ships of traditionally built, and
- Fishing vessels
Filipino seafarers onboard Philippine or foreign-registered ocean-going vessels working on those ships are not covered in our Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers.
2. Cadets get FREE training!
Section 7 of Chapter III, which is about Seafarer’s Rights, says that,
“No fees or other charges shall be imposed on cadets, interns, apprentices, on-the-job trainees, or other persons similarly situated.”
To bring about reasonable and affordable training costs, the government will also regulate all educational and training institutions offering courses related to seafaring.
3. Right to Consultation
This is from Section 11, also from Chapter III. It says, and I summarize,
“Seafarers must also be adequately consulted before enacting any regulation or law impacting the industry.”
I included it because we felt under-represented. Whenever a new regulation is enforced, we can only scratch our heads and whine about how disadvantageous it is while nobody hears us.
4. FREE Legal Representation
With all the ambulance chasers flooding our walls, I wasn’t aware that we could get lawyers to represent us for free.
In essence, Section 14 (this Section) tells us that,
“Seafarers who are victims of violations of the provisions of this Act… shall have the right to free legal assistance and protection at the government’s expense…”
5. Gender Equality in the Maritime Industry
Chapter IV is all about Women in the Maritime Industry. Even though the MLC isn’t officially addressing this issue (yet), the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers is one step ahead.
Our shefarers are now protected against discrimination such as payment for a lesser compensation, undue advantage when it comes to promotion, bullying, harassment, and other gender-based discriminatory practices.
6. Duties of Seafarers
We also need to do our part, like complying with the provisions of this Act, following the chain of command, and being a good boy on board.
But what piques my interest for this part, which is in Chapter V, is this reminder, which is very relevant today:
“To continually improve one’s professional competency by keeping up-to-date with the latest technological and scientific developments in various maritime fields, continuous education, and keen observation of shipboard activities.”
7. Manning Agencies insuring their seafarers
It isn’t alien to us that shipowners could abandon their crew, leaving huge unpaid back wages. Upon repatriating home, the poor seaman has nothing but debts after spending months at sea.
With this provision, manning agencies must compensate the seaman if such an event happens on their watch.
Here’s the full text found in Chapter V of MCFS:
“To establish a system of protection, by way of insurance or an equivalent mechanism, to compensate seafarers for monetary loss due to the failure of the agency or the relevant shipowner under the seafarers’ employment contract to meet its obligations to them.”
8. Paid Leaves and Quarantines
We all experienced the hassles of quarantine during COVID-19 but managed to make it through.
Section 36 of Chapter VII assures us of what we will get if such scenarios ever happen again:
“A seafarer who has contracted an illness or disease during public health emergencies, such as epidemics or pandemics, while In transit or under quarantine shall be entitled to paid sick leave and sickness benefits until the seafarer joins the vessel.”
9. You Can Waive Your Entitlement to Repatriation which is probably a bad idea
Chapter XII discusses Repatriation and its 4 Sections 54 to 57. While the first three of that Section highlight the benefits and expenses, Section 57 gives an interesting angle about waiving your entitlement to repatriation.
This means that you are giving up on utilizing or claiming the benefits or assistance provided for repatriation by the shipowner.
You will also be the one to shoulder all the repatriation costs, such as accommodation, food, transportation, immigration fees, etc.
10. Reintegrating to Society
Reintegration refers to the process of helping seafarers smoothly transition back into their home country and society after completing their sea service or employment contracts.
Reintegration is one of OWWA’s benefits and financial programs for seafarers and OFWs. But it feels underutilized, and only a few seafarers are aware of it.
Bringing this to light under Chapter XIII of our Magna Carta of Seafarers should help many of our crewmates take full advantage of the support.
11. 13th Month Pay?
We all know seafarers have no Christmas bonus or 13th-month pay, but it will probably change very soon.
Seafarers shall now be entitled to 13th-month pay according to this Act and in relation to Presidential Decree No. 851, as amended.
HOWEVER, this provision applies to domestic seafarers only!
That’s Chapter XIV for you in your MCFS.
12. Seafarer Welfare Centers and One-Stop-Shop for Seafarers
A Seafarer Welfare Center may be established in major crew change ports like Manila, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro City, and Davao City.
These facilities shall offer services that promote the welfare of and cater to seafarers’ recreational, cultural, religious, communication, and legal needs.
A public attorney will also be available in those centers for free legal counseling and advice.
Lastly, they plan to establish a One-Stop-Shop within the centers that process or issue licenses, permits, clearances, and other documents seafarers require.
Talk about our Seaman Centers on steroids!
13. Regulating Training Fees
We know that training fees vary, and some even have ridiculous price tags.
The Magna Carta, if enforced, shall authorize MARINA to regulate the fees imposed by MARINA-accredited Maritime Training Institutions for maritime courses and programs required under the STCW Convention, 1978, as amended.
This is under Section 76 – Regulation of Training Programs and Fees.
There you have it, my fellow seamen. The original document is quite long, but many are mirrored from the Maritime Labor Convention.
I went through our Magna Carta and noted down which provisions looked interesting, and these are the ones I’m sharing with you here.
What do you think of these provisions? What are your thoughts on the whole Magna Carta of Seafarers?
Would love to hear your ideas and inside knowledge about the topic.
May the winds be in your favor.