Protection of Filipino Seafarers, Imbued with National Interest
Senate Session Hall
July 31, 2012
I have the honor to seek approval of Senate Resolution No. 829 under Committee Report No. 319, entitled: “Resolution concurring in the Ratification of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006” adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization on 23 February 2006.
“Manilamen” and Filipino seafarers of today
Our country has a long, historical association with the sea.
Filipinos are said to be the first Asians to cross the Pacific Ocean, having figured prominently during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade from 1565 to 1815.
Today, Filipinos account for about 30% of the 1.2 million seafarers in the global shipping fleet today. In 2011 alone, the country deployed 343,587 seafarers – a number that ushered in $4.3 billion in remittances.
In the domestic front, another 40,000 seafarers are employed in local shipping fleets.
Filipino seafarers: Imbued with national interest
Ninety per cent (90%) of world trade is carried on ships manned by seafarers. The present global economic order, characterized by relentless exchange of goods and services across national borders and seas, would not be possible were it not for the diligence and industry of the world’s seafarers.
However, the sea could be one of the most dangerous and harshest environments for workers. Industry and diligence do not assure seafarers of fair working conditions. Security of tenure is virtually non-existent in many instances. Physical and psychological abuses are norms in some ships, while decent working conditions escape hundreds of our seafarers.
On top of these realities rests the fact that seafarers contribute to the lifeblood of our country. Without them, nearly a third of the world’s shipping industry would be paralyzed. For these reasons, the protection of Filipino seafarer interest is imbued with national interest.
Today’s realities necessitate MLC, 2006
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 is the seafarers’ bill of rights.
It consolidates and updates, in one Convention, 68 international labor standards related to the Maritime sector adopted over the last 80 years. These cover basic rights such as freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
The right to a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; right to fair terms of employment; right to decent working and living conditions on board ship; and right to health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection are clearly laid down as self-evident rights whose enforcement is demanded by the Convention, and not suggested, as a matter of course.
The Convention is envisioned to spur the modernization of shipping fleets to comply with international standards. Sea-worthy, safe, efficient, and hopefully, environment-friendly ships will become the norm more than the exception. It also erases ambiguity on the definition of seafarer as the Convention covers not just the crew involved in navigating or operating the ship but also, other workers including cabin and cleaning personnel, bar staff, waiters, entertainers, singers, kitchen staff, casino personnel and estheticians – positions occupied by thousands of Filipinos in foreign vessels.
Timely ratification: MLC, 2006 entry into force
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 sets two requirements for its entry into force. One, the Convention needs to be ratified by at least 30 members; and two, the ratifying members should have a shared tonnage of at least 33% of the world gross tonnage of ships. The second requirement has been met as early as 2009. Twenty-nine member states have ratified the Convention to date, and this Chamber’s timely adoption of this Convention could very well represent the 30th ratification that will signal this Convention’s coming into force.
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the action demanded of us is of great consequence to 1.2 million seafarers worldwide, 400,000 of whom are our very own.
I ask for this Chamber’s immediate concurrence with the ratification of this Convention so that we may finally usher in the “fourth pillar of international regulatory regime for quality shipping” and better protection for our seafarers.