AUTHORS of the proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers in the House of Representatives will now remove the inclusion of domestic shipping seafarers in the proposed bill, following the public hearing with local shipping firms.

“The House Committee on Migrant Workers Afairs chaired by Cong. Ron Salo understood the merits of the position paper submitted by the Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA) and in the hearing yesterday, Feb. 2, there was a realization that to lump the domestic and international seafarers, it could create a much bigger problem in the maritime industry,” said PCSA chairman Lucio Lim Jr. on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

Lim said upon hearing the sentiments of the local shipping firms, the House version of the bill will now exclude the domestic shipping seafarers.

“Cong. Pablo John Garcia made a very valid point that the committee could be overstepping the responsibility of the committee on labor and committee on transportation by including the domestic seafarers in the bill,” Lim.

Besides Garcia, the PCSA also gained support from Deputy Speaker Rep. Raymond Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Mandaue City Rep. Emmarie “Lolypop” Ouano.

A public hearing attended by the PCSA and other local shipping organizations was mounted Thursday, Feb. 2. The consultation was presided by Kabayan Party-list Rep. Salo.

Lim said players in the domestic shipping industry sought to have a separate policy for seafarers navigating the domestic waters of the country because both versions of the bill in the Senate and the House of Representatives incorporate some provisions of the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) of 2006 that are only applicable to ships or vessels navigating in international waters and engaged in global trade.

The group instead asked lawmakers to task the Maritime Industry Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment to come up with domestic maritime regulations that would set the living and working standards of seafarers working on board domestic ships engaged in the domestic trade.

“If you look at the provisions of the MLC 2006, there’s no way we believe that the domestic shipping (players) can abide by it,” said Lim.

After lobbying with Congress, members of the PCSA also look forward to discuss with Sen. Raffy Tulfo, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers to air the group’s concern.

Tulfo said Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers codifies the rights of seafarers into a single reference law. It seeks to secure their rights to decent, just and humane conditions of employment aboard sea-going vessels and set a guide for their training and education, overseas employment and ultimately retirement.

“It is an affirmation of our commitment to the international community and adherence to the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, where the Philippines stands as the 30th ILO Member state to ratify the same,” Tulfo said in his opening statement in 2022.

The Philippines is known to be the world’s largest supplier of seafarers to international shipping. During the course of the pandemic, this status was challenged as the number of seafarers deployed overseas plunged 54 percent in 2020 to 217,223, compared to 469,996 in 2019.

The PCSA is the largest shipping association in the Philippines and the biggest in terms of total gross tonnage of ships combined. It represents 50 members with more than 600 vessels from small to medium in size.