Gulliver's Travels-A A +A
One Small Voice
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
TO CALL our overseas contract workers as the modern day heroes of our country is flattering for them. To treat them with an almost uncaring attitude, though, is just no way to treat supposed heroes.
The use of the word heroes, in a case of utter neglect and wanton abandonment, does not only make it lose its meaning, but soils and stains it too so as to make it sound insolent and impertinent.
We have to mean what we say, or else time will come that words would mean their exact opposite, and whatever positive remains in the meaning of the word instead becomes negative. In the end, we will all have difficulty recognizing the messages behind words, and we shall forever be on the lookout for what are behind words, or on their left or on their right, or up or down, for that matter.
In any case, one of the largest sectors in our share of workers abroad is our seafarers. In fact, it so huge that around 26 percent of our migrant workforce is all one kind or another kind of seafarers. In international labor statistics, our seafarers comprise about 28 percent of the ship manning requirements of the whole world.
Contributing almost P4 billion to the economy of our country in the first quarter of this year alone should deserve some focus and attention for our seafarers, if not praise and applause.
However, nothing is seen, heard and felt. If it is just because of lack or absence of publicity and propaganda, then the good things that are being done better be put on the news. If it is really because of lack or absence of plans and projects, then the government is the villain in this modern day hero story of ours.
It is in this regard that the proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers now pending in Congress should be supported as it has been correctly observed that most of our existing policies and programs are designed for land-based workers.
The first key item in the proposed Magna Carta is the requirement for the disclosure of working conditions and international laws that apply to seafarers in ships that they are boarding to guarantee right working conditions and compensation.
The second key item in the proposed Magna Carta is the provision of access to affordable and quality training courses to upgrade the skills of our seafarers.
The third key item in the proposed Magna Carta is the retraining or reintegration of our seafarers after finishing their respective contracts.
To be sure, our seafarers need all the support and all the assistance that they can get, especially from our laws and from our government. The truth is, by taking care of them, we are taking care of ourselves. It is then more than just logical and more than just necessary for our laws and for our government to back them up.
In addition to what are presently included in the proposed Magna Carta, other equally important matters also come to mind that, if and when institutionalized, would further strengthen our seafarer industry.
A more comprehensive insurance program for our seafarers should be designed, not only to include life and health, but also legal, as we have seen a lot of our seafarers facing all kinds of legal entanglements, with sometimes preposterous charges, but none less serious.
A savings program for our seafarers should be developed, still voluntary but must be more persuasive, as we have seen a lot or our seafarers working so hard for such a long time and losing everything almost in an instant.
A livelihood opportunities or investment options program should be presented, simple enough to be understood and implemented by ordinary folks, as we have seen a lot of our seafarers spending their money in all directions without thinking about the future.
A family counseling or support group program should be initiated, for all those left behind while our seafarers are going around the world, as we have seen a lot of families poor but united before departure and comfortable but broken upon arrival.
If and when reforms are not instituted and improvements are not implemented, our modern day hero seafarers will most likely end up tied up to the ground, but in this specific case without any chance of escape, like in Gulliver's travels.
Comments are most welcome. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 04, 2010.