Seafarer's corner: Pre-employment Exam, POEA-SEC Term

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Friday, April 15, 2011

(Know your Rights Under the POEA Standard Employment Contract)

Does a preemployment medical examination determine the seafarer’s real state of health? What is the duration of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Contract (POEA-SEC)? What is the effect of a second employment contract signed between a seafarer and his foreign employer after the execution of his POEA-SEC?

These queries were answered by the Supreme Court in the case of “Carlos N. Nisda vs. Sea Serve Maritime Agency and Khalifa A. Algosalbi Diving and Marine Services (G.R. No. 179177, July 23, 2009). Here, the complainant-seafarer underwent pre-employment medical examination and was found “fit to work.” He was then hired by his employers for nine months to work as tugboat Master under a POEA-approved contract.


Barely two weeks on board his employers’ vessel however, he again entered into a second contract without the prior approval of the POEA. On his 9th month of employment, he was signed off and was disembarked from his vessel after complaining of pain and numbness of both his upper limbs. He was eventually repatriated to the Philippines and was found to have coronary heart disease. Due to the seriousness of his condition, he underwent a triple bypass surgery. When his employers failed to heed his demand for payment of his disability benefits, he then filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission.

The Supreme Court affirmed the complainant-seafarer’s right to his disability benefits on account of his disease which qualifies as a total and permanent disability. The Court found the existence of a reasonable connection between his work as tugboat Master and the development and exacerbation of his illness hence, making it an occupational disease.

On the subject of pre-employment medical examination which the complainant-seafarer passed before he was hired, the Court clarified that such an examination merely determines whether one is “fit to work” at sea and reveals enough for the foreign employer to decide whether a seafarer is fit for overseas employment but it may not be relied upon to inform the employer of a seafarer’s true state of health.

Regarding the duration of the complainant-seafarer’s POEA-SEC, the Court observed that it commenced on Aug. 22, 2001, the date of his actual departure from the airport in the point of hire, which is Quezon City, and not on Aug. 7, 2001, when he signed the contract.

Moreover, the contract was effective until his date of arrival and repatriation on July 17, 2002 at the said point of hire upon termination of the contract, and not on May 21, 2002, when his contract expired.

The Court observed that the second contract he signed with his employers was void for not having been sanctioned by the POEA. It could not have superseded the terms of the POEA-SEC which he signed first thus, his employment from the expiration of his POEA-SEC on May 21, 2002 until his actual repatriation on July 17, 2002 was still governed by his said POEA-SEC.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 16, 2011.


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