MANILA — Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, reminded Filipino seafarers of their rights and privileges that are ensured under the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), 2006 when it takes effect within the year.
Legarda, who sponsored and ushered the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of the Convention, said that the MLC is the seafarers’ bill of rights.
She explained that the Convention covers basic rights such as freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination with respect to employment and occupation.
“The right to a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; right to fair terms of employment; right to decent working and living conditions on board ship; and right to health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection are clearly laid down as self-evident rights whose enforcement is demanded by the Convention, and not suggested, as a matter of course,” she added.
Legarda also said that the Convention is envisioned to spur the modernization of shipping fleets to comply with international standards.
“Sea-worthy, safe, efficient, and hopefully, environment-friendly ships will become the norm more than the exception. Governments are called upon by the Convention to effectively enforce its regulatory role in ensuring safer and secure shipping, in preventing marine pollution, and in ensuring decent work for seafarers,” she pointed out.
The Senator also said that MLC erases ambiguity on the definition of seafarer as the Convention covers not just the crew involved in navigating or operating the ship but also, other workers including cabin and cleaning personnel, bar staff, waiters, entertainers, singers, kitchen staff, casino personnel and estheticians—positions occupied by thousands of Filipinos in foreign vessels.
“Filipinos account for an estimated 30% of the 1.2 million seafarers in the global shipping fleet today. The sea could be one of the most dangerous and harshest environments for workers, which is why we have worked hard to ensure fair working conditions and security of tenure for our seafarers through the MLC. We take pride in our seafarers’ competence, dedication, hard work and contribution to the nation and there’s no better way to give back to them than by ensuring that the protection of our Filipino seafarers’ interest is imbued with national interest,” Legarda concluded.