Seafarers’ Groups Fear Non-Ratification of Maritime Pact

While the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. and other seafarers’ groups such as the progressive Filipino Seafarers’ Movement (FSM) are pushing hard for the ratification of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), the Philippine government seems not to bother.


Two years after the adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) by the member-states of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the campaign for its ratification in the Philippine Congress seems to have failed to gain ground.

Lawyer Edwin Soriano de la Cruz, president and trustee of the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc., said there is an urgent need to ratify the MLC because there are so many Filipino seafarers being abused overseas, and are left without any protection.

“With the MLC,” he said, “the protection of the rights and welfare of thousands of Filipino seafarers, cruising over the different oceans in the world, will be possible.”

In a seminar last January, De la Cruz, together with ILO-Manila Office senior program assistant Diane Lynn Raspall, explained that with the ratification of the MLC, the Filipino seafarers are somewhat assured of enjoying protection both from the sending country (the Philippines), and the country of destination (if that country is a ratifying country). Filipino seafarers, said De la Cruz, will enjoy better working conditions and just wages.

Since the adoption of the MLC, the ISAC and other seafarers’ groups such as the Filipino Seafarers’ Movement and some members of civil society attempted to talk with some legislators from both houses of the Philippine Congress, but the efforts were futile, said Jeremy Cajiuat, project development officer of ISAC.

“The reason behind the delays or the non-interest of the Philippine government and even the members of the august body of Congress is that most of our legislators and members of the executive branch are benefiting from the system existing today in the seafaring industry,” Cajiuat told this reporter in an interview.

“Some of them are ship-owners, some are stockholders in different shipping companies, and some are owners of manning agencies,” he said.

However, the ISAC official did not reveal the names of government officials involved in the shipping business.

It is up to the Philippine government to ratify

When asked about the “slow” moves by the Philippine government in ratifying the landmark labor convention and about how the ILO Manila Office can help hasten the ratification process, Raspall said the only thing they can do is to facilitate a dialogue between the government and the stakeholders.

“The ILO is ‘giving the ball’ to the Philippine government and it is up to the Philippine Congress or the executive department to act on the MLC,” Raspall said.

The MLC 2006 contains a comprehensive set of global standards, based on those that are already found in 68 maritime labor instruments that the ILO has adopted since 1920.

It consolidates all existing international laws on matters relating to seafaring, such as the creation of a good working environment for seafarers, improvement of pay, and accountability of ship-owners, the receiving country, and the sending country if ever seafarers are put to risk due to substandard shipping practices and unfriendly working environments.

MLC ratification alliance formed

With two years to go for the Philippines to ratify and adopt the MLC, the Decent Work for Seafarers Alliance was formed last Jan. 30, after a successful seminar held at the ISAC’s office in cooperation with the ILO Manila Office.

In a meeting last Feb. 18 where more than 20 seafarers and representatives of seafaring unions including ISAC officials attended, a manifesto of unity was drafted.

De la Cruz has reiterated the importance of the MLC’s ratification in protecting the rights and welfare of seafarers. He expressed hope that through the MLC, violations of seafarers’ rights such as inadequate pay, long working hours without compensation, gender inequality, racism, and dangerous working conditions while at sea, will be prevented and stopped.

The alliance also hopes that through the MLC ratification campaign, more solid and genuine seafarers’ unions and associations will be formed thus, making the seafarers’ sector stronger.

“We also hope that through the MLC, the Flags of Convenience (FoC) will be completely eliminated and ship-owner and State accountability will be easier to pinpoint,” he said.

Among the courses of action to be taken by the alliance is to hold dialogues with different sectors such as workers, youth, women, civil society, and the church-based organizations to discuss the issues in relation with the MLC ratification and to create a broader alliance that would exert stronger pressure on the government to hasten the MLC ratification.

Being approached by the alliance are the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI), the Apostleship of the Sea, the diocesan desks for migrants and seafarers’ committees, migrants’ desks of different Christian denominations, different labor unions and associations, migrants’ organizations and associations, and other organizations connected to the maritime or seafaring industry. (

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