PRIVATE respondent Catalino Villamater was hired as chief engineer for the ship m/v Nord Monaco owned by petitioner World Marine Panama, S.A. through petitioner Leonies Navigation Co., Inc. as the manning agent.

Around four months after his deployment, he suffered intestinal bleeding. He was diagnosed with obstructive adenocarcinoma of the sigmoid, with multiple liver metastases, possibly local peritoneal carcinosis and infiltration of the bladder, candida esophagitis and chronic gastritis.

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In a complaint filed by Villamater for permanent and total disability benefits, and reimbursement for medical and hospitalization expenses, petitioner interposed the defense that the former’s disease was not work-related as diagnosed by the company-designated physician. Did the defense prosper?

Ruling: No.

On these points, we sustain the labor arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in granting total and permanent disability benefits in favor of Villamater as it was sufficiently shown that his having contracted colon cancer was, at the very least, aggravated by his working conditions, taking into consideration his dietary provisions on board, his age, and his job as chief engineer, who was primarily in charge of the technical and mechanical operations of the vessels to ensure voyage safety.

Jurisprudence provides that to establish compensability of a non-occupational disease, reasonable proof of work-connection and not direct causal relation is required. Probability, not the ultimate degree of certainty, is the test of proof in compensation proceedings.

The labor arbiter correctly awarded Villamater total and permanent disability benefits, computed on the basis of the schedule provided under the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency standard contract, considering that the schedule of payment of benefits under the ITF-JSU/AMOSUP CBA refers only to permanent disability as a result of an accident or injury.

(Leonis Navigation Co., Inc. and World Marine Panama, S.A. vs. Catalino U. Villamater, et. al., G.R. No. 179169, March 3, 2010).