Urgent Certification of Seafarers’ Magna Carta

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President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has certified a proposed measure for a Magna Carta for seafarers as urgent in order to address issues with the education and certification of Filipino mariners. The bill, titled “An Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers,” aims to address deficiencies in domestic laws regarding the training and accreditation of Filipino seafarers that have affected their employment opportunities in the European market and the international maritime industry. The bill also aims to ensure that Filipino seafarers’ training, facilities, and equipment meet international standards.

The European Union has raised concerns about the Philippines’ compliance with international standards for maritime workers since 2006. In 2021, the European Commission warned that it would withdraw its recognition of Filipino seafarers’ certificates unless serious measures were taken. However, in March, the European Commission decided to continue recognizing certificates for seafarers issued by the Philippines after the government promised to improve its maritime programs. Filipino mariners make up over 25% of the 1.5 million sea-based workers worldwide.

The proposed bill is currently pending on second reading in the Senate, while a counterpart measure has been filed in the House of Representatives. However, migrant workers’ coalition Migrante International has expressed opposition to the bill, claiming that it is a “watered-down version” and would delay the release of monetary awards to seafarers who win labor cases. Migrante also criticized the bill for excluding fisherfolk from the protections provided to seafarers, arguing that fisherfolk already have the same rights under the guidelines of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Overall, the proposed Magna Carta for seafarers aims to address deficiencies in the education and certification of Filipino mariners, ensuring that their training, facilities, and equipment meet international standards. While the bill is pending in the Senate, opposition has been raised by Migrante International, citing concerns about delayed monetary awards for seafarers and the exclusion of fisherfolk from the bill’s protections. The European Union has previously raised concerns about the Philippines’ compliance with international standards for maritime workers, but decided to continue recognizing certificates for seafarers issued by the Philippines after improvements were promised.

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