MANILA – Seafarers’ unions, ship owners, and licensed manning agencies have committed to coordinate more closely in times of maritime accidents, both in national and international waters, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said Friday.
Baldoz said this was agreed upon during a meeting of the Overseas Seafarers Committee of the Maritime Industry Tripartite Council.
Right after the New Year, three shipping incidents involving Filipino seafarers were monitored: a ship with an all-Filipino crew sinking off Vietnam, another with a Filipino on board off Scotland, and a cargo ship off Camiguin Friday.
“They have clearly delineated their responsibilities and were common in understanding that the paramount concern is to ensure the welfare of Filipino seafarers and their families, especially when maritime accidents happen,” said Baldoz after receiving a report from Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.
In his report, Cacdac said ship owners vowed to ensure the seaworthiness of their ships and to comply with flag and port states’ requirements on ships’ seaworthiness.
“They committed to communicate and inform their manning agencies the situation within 24 hours of a marine casualty incident; pay seafarers and their families whatever entitlements are due them, including medical treatments, accommodation, and other forms of assistance; and facilitate their immediate repatriation,” Cacdac said.
He said manning agencies vowed to comply with the POEA’s reportorial requirements through the fastest means, such as e-mail or SMS (text).
“Manning agencies committed that no less than their top management shall communicate to the families of the seafarers and assure them of fast settlement of entitlements and benefits. They also promised to personally visit the families and explain to them the situation and provide them advice and counseling,” Cacdac said.
“They shall also facilitate the payment of all the benefits, including survivorship and provident pensions, unpaid earned wages, leave pay, compensation for loss of personal effects; repatriation costs; funeral and burial benefits, in case of death, alongside the payment of the compulsory insurance under Republic Act 10022,” he explained.
Cacdac said POEA, for its part, will coordinate the flow of accurate and truthful information to the families and provide assistance to facilitate the payment of Social Security System, Pag-IBIG, and Overseas Worker’s Welfare Administration benefits.
He also said DOLE will push its efforts in forging bilateral agreements with flag states which, like the Philippines, are signatories to the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006.
“As directed by Secretary Baldoz, our goal this year is to commence negotiation with flag states on the welfare and protection Filipino seafarers, which includes closer coordination in times of marine casualty incidents,” he said.
Baldoz had ordered the convening of the committee meeting, saying that with 300,000 Filipino seafarers deployed annually there is always the likelihood that a Filipino seafarer may be on board when a ship becomes involved in an accident anywhere in the world.