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Seafarers : (DOLE) issued an order to arrange and fund for boarding as well as lodging of the Filipino seafarers

Things have turned worse for manning agencies in the Philippines when the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued an order mandating them to arrange and fund for boarding as well as lodging of the Filipino seafarers. This should be done as soon as they sign off from the ships to undergo compulsory quarantine.

The controversial order by DOLE states that ship owners/manning agencies have to cover boarding and lodging of repatriated seafarers during the period of their quarantine.

According to the manning enterprises majors, maritime unions and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) this will eventually lead to bankruptcy as the rough estimate amounts to 700 US dollar per seafarer. They also pointed out that the decision will incur the loss of respect for foreign ship owners.

The agencies backed their arguments with a number of valid points. Local manning agencies are of the opinion that the Philippine government should be the one who should shoulder the costs like every other country. Nelson Ramirez, UFS president has said that all seafarers had paid a mandatory fee to the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) which roughly amounts to P7 billion and it is irresponsible for the government to wash their hands by expecting private sectors to pay.

Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 has clearly identified seafarers as OFW.

The association has thus sought the intervention of the President and would want him to look into the matter. They have already spent out P2.8 billion for lodging and quarantine expenses of seafarers.

If the order is enacted shipping companies might be compelled to replace Filipinos with seafarers from other countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, eastern Europe, India, China, Indonesia etc. Also as per POEA standard employment contract upon the arrival of seafarers at the point of hire the contract is terminated.

The point of hire refers to seaport/airport and not the place of their domicile. Thus there’s no contractual basis for ship owners obligation to look after the quarantine expenses.

Besides, there is a chance that the shipping companies in future may face a dip in income. Thus they are clearly not in a position to fund for the seafarer expenses post repatriation. It is up to the government to take care of the fellow seamen as they form the economic pillar of the country. Moreover, COVID stricken citizens who are at risk of losing jobs are the responsibility of the government.

Reference: news.mb.com.ph/ manilastandard.net

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