The Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers

Monday, October 15, 2018, 11:55 a.m.
By Atty. Dennis Gorecho


Stakeholders has been campaigning for the passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino seafarers given the fact that the Philippines is considered as one of the major suppliers of maritime labor globally.

The first version of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers was the by-product of the National Seafarers Conference in 2002 held at the Manila Hotel organized by the Apostleship of the Seas (AoS) in coordination with the Office of Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.

Years later, several versions were filed by legislators that considered legal developments both locally and internationally. This includes the  Maritime Labour Convention of 2006  (MLC2006) that sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work.  and embodies all up-to-date standards of existing international maritime labor Conventions and Recommendations. MLC 2006 is also called Seafarers’ Bill of Rights and the fourth pillar of international maritime law.

 In the Senate, there are pending   bills  on Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers proposed by Senator Sonny Angara (S.B.No.314) , Senator Loren Legarda (S.B.N0.244) and Senator J,V, Ejercito (S.B.No,904)  which aim to institute mechanisms to protect our country’s seafarers’ rights, provide them compulsory benefits, and enforce standards set by international laws.

On the other hand,  Senate Bill No. 429 by Senator Legarda and Senate Bill No. 881 by Senator Grace Poe seek the creation of a centralized agency directly involved in promoting assistance to all seafarers.

On July 2017, the Lower House has passed on third and final reading with  236-0 votes House Bill No. 5685 or the Magna Carta for Filipino seafarers, which essentially consolidated the different bills filed by  Representatives  Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Jesulito Manalo, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Karlo Alexei Nograles,  Jericho Jonas Nograles, Tomasito Villarin; and  Democrito Mendoza.

The proponents acknowledge that seafarers deal with circumstances very different from mainstream or land-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and other sectors within the labor force. However, existing labor laws and social legislation, particularly the Overseas Filipinos and Migrant Workers’ Act of 1996 (RA 8042) do not adequately address the needs of seafarers.

This maritime Magna Carta, which in essence simply enshrines MLC2006  into Philippine law, states that seafarers have the right to safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; decent working and living conditions on board a ship; medical care, welfare measures and other forms of health and social protection; and fair terms and conditions of employment including salary commensurate to their rank, minimum number of working hours, and rest periods consistent with Philippine or international maritime conventions.

The bill also provides for seafarers’ rights to engage in collective bargaining; access to educational advancement and training at reasonable and affordable costs; relevant information, including the terms and conditions of employment and company policies affecting seafarers. It protects them against discrimination based on race, sex, religion and political opinion and provides for free legal representation for victims of violations who cannot afford legal representation

The original Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the world.  It is short for   Magna Carta Libertatum, the Medieval Latin for “the Great Charter of the Liberties.”

Originally issued by King John of England as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. It dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule.

Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

Lord Alfred Thompson Denning, a famous English lawyer and judge, described  it as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

If passed into law, the Magna Carta for Filipino seafarers will be applied to those engaged, employed or working on board Philippines-registered ships operating domestically or internationally, as well as those on board foreign-registered ships.

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