DMW pushes for fishers’ coverage in magna carta

Philippine Tribune
Philippine Tribune

THE Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) wants Filipino fishers or seafarers deployed in foreign commercial fishing vessels included in the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers.

At the recent Info Caravan organized by the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (Amosup), DMW Officer in Charge Hans Leo Cacdac, who was the main guest at the event, expressed categorically his department’s position on Filipino fishers serving fishing vessels plying overseas.

(From left) VAdm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, vice president of Amosup; special guest Hans Leo Cacdac, OIC-secretary, DMW and Dr. Conrado Oca, president of the Amosup during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Amosup Info Caravan. PHOTO BY WILMAR ALMERIA

(From left) VAdm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, vice president of Amosup; special guest Hans Leo Cacdac, OIC-secretary, DMW and Dr. Conrado Oca, president of the Amosup during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Amosup Info Caravan. PHOTO BY WILMAR ALMERIA

(From left) VAdm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, vice president of Amosup; special guest Hans Leo Cacdac, OIC-secretary, DMW and Dr. Conrado Oca, president of the Amosup during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Amosup Info Caravan. PHOTO BY WILMAR ALMERIA

Conrado Oca and VAdm. Eduardo Ma. Santos, Amosup president and vice president, respectively, led the info Caravan program.

After speaking at the Info Caravan which served as one of the highlights of the National Maritime Week celebration at the Amosup Convention Center in Intramuros, Manila on September 28, Cacdac shared his sentiment on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working on fishing vessels.

“Dapat kasama ang fishers sa magna carta,” Cacdac said, adding that they are most oppressed among sea-based OFWs.

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Filipino seafarers deployed on overseas fishing vessels are often victims of unfair recruitment practices. Unlike most sea-based workers, they are charged placement fees and are often victims of contract substitution, delayed pay or, worse, unpaid salaries.

Most of them work in substandard conditions with extended working periods, and many do not have overtime pay. In some instances, information on their whereabouts is kept from their families. They could hardly communicate with their families while onboard.

Unfortunately, both the Senate and the House of Representatives’ versions of the proposed magna carta exclude seafarers onboard fishing vessels in their definition of seafarers.

During the Senate deliberation of the magna carta, the principal sponsor of the measure, Sen. Raffy Tulfo, said that the bill is the country’s version of the Maritime Labor Convention 2006, which does not cover fishing vessels. He said that fishers are covered by another international convention.

On the other hand, the definition of seafarers under Republic Act 11641, or the “DMW Law,” covers explicitly of, fishers. The law says, “It shall include fishers onboard commercial fishing vessels in international waters.”

Hence, for this reason, Cacdac said DMW is preparing to review the 2016 Revised Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Seafarers under the defunct Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

“We will come out with a [separate] rules for fishers to provide them protection,” Cacdac said.

The DMW OIC further said the department intends to introduce new provisions in the rules, apparently in line with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s call for ease of doing business.

During the Info Caravan, he also announced that the Board of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) had approved the establishment of a seafarers’ hub where they could avail government services. Cacdac also sits on the OWWA Board.

OWWA Administrator Arnel Ignacio, who also attended the Info Caravan, shared that the OWWA Board allocated a P14.8 million budget for setting up the seafarers’ hub.

“We decided to set up a seafarers’ hub so they will have a place to hang out safe from ambulance chasers,” Ignacio said.

“We will tap lawyers, in cooperation with IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines), who expressed willingness to join in this venture,” he said.

Ignacio said that the seafarers’ hub will be equipped with copying machines.

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