THE Joint Maritime Committee (JMC) of the Dutch, German, Nordic and Norwegian Chambers of Commerce expresses deep concern over the escrow provision removal in the Senate version of the Magna Carta for Seafarers Bill, or Senate Bill (SB) 2221.
“The exploitation of the seafarer compensation system has been identified as a major obstacle to the employment of Filipino seafarers,” said Tore Henriksen who is the chairperson of the European JMC. “This is primarily attributed to the flawed system requiring ship owners to pay in full before cases are finally settled in the judicial system.”
The Magna Carta for Seafarers Bill at the House of Representatives includes an escrow provision designed to protect workers and employers from “ambulance chasers” or unscrupulous lawyers who encourage those with work-related injuries to file cases against their employers and seek exorbitant damages.
The problem’s gravity is underscored by the astonishing amount of P2.5 billion in the National Labor Relations Commission and the National Conciliation and Mediation Board’s documented decisions that have been reversed or changed on appeal, but whose judgment awards remain unreturned to ship owners.
Both seafarers’ unions: the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines and the United Filipino Seafarers, as well as global employers’ organizations such as the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Maritime Employers’ Council, agree that the current system falls short of its intended purpose and necessitates change.
European envoys on May 31 expressed their concerns regarding the removal of the escrow provision in the Senate version.
“We commend the House Committee on Overseas Migrant Workers chaired by Congressman [Ron Salo for its] diligent efforts in mitigating the exploitation of the seafarer-compensation system,” Henriksen further emphasized. “The House version seeks to establish an escrow arrangement that aligns seafarer claims with the Rules of Civil Procedure of the regular courts.”
He added: “The JMC acknowledges the genuine care demonstrated by the majority of lawmakers for the welfare of Filipino seafarers, as evidenced by the passage of this bill through Congress.”
The JMC appeals to all stakeholders, industry players and lawmakers to lend their support in reinstating Section 51 into SB 2221. By doing so, they will make substantial contribution to enhance the livelihood and prospects of Filipino seafarers, while safeguarding their rights and fair compensation.
The committee together represents the interests of a large segment of the maritime private-sector community of Europe composed of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. It is represented by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce, the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the Philippines-Norway Business Council.