Mark Villar supports fight vs ambulance chasing

Sen. Mark Villar acknowledges the prevalence of ambulance chasing in the maritime industry and the need to resolve the issue that causes foreign ship owners to hire other nationalities to replace Filipino seafarers.

As posted by The Manila Times on September 20, 2023

SEN. Mark Villar, the Senate’s deputy majority leader, has expressed full support for the eradication of ambulance chasers in the country following reports that it has significantly affected the deployment of Filipino seafarers onboard ships.

Villar reassured the local maritime industry in the recently concluded “Seafarer’s Rights and Protection: A Symposium” that the legislative sector is working to craft laws to prevent abuses that deter the employment of seafarers.

The symposium was organized and hosted by Far East Maritime Foundation Inc. last Thursday, September 14, to advocate for the Filipino seafarers’ right to protection in time with the celebration of the 2023 National Maritime Week.

“Filipino seafarers are vital to the global economy, and it is upon us to ensure that their sacrifices are returned with an equal or greater sense of gratitude,” Villar said.

“We recognize the paramount importance of our seafarers and the need to equip them with the best working conditions here and abroad. [That is why we] filed Senate Bill 2221, or the ‘Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers,’ to ensure their safe and secure workplace. It also outlines the guidelines that guarantee their protection from unjust conditions,” he continued.

Villar acknowledged the prevalence of ambulance chasing in the industry and the need to resolve the issue that caused foreign ship owners to hire other nationalities to replace Filipino seafarers.

“[We] reassure everyone that the legislative sector is working very hard and constantly in talks with all stakeholders in the maritime industry [to keep] the Philippines at the forefront of providing seafarers across the world,” he said.

“We are here to support you, and we are constantly finding ways to resolve these issues very soon as they are causing concerns in the [manning] agencies. Based on discussions, there is a decrease in the hiring of Filipino seafarers because of ambulance chasing,” he added.

Republic Act 10706, or the “Act Protecting Seafarers from Ambulance Chasing,” describes ambulance chasing as the act of soliciting, personally or through an agent, from seafarers or their heirs the pursuit of any claim against their employers for recovery of a monetary claim of benefit. In the Philippine maritime industry, ambulance chasers prowl medical clinics, airports, and streets to find potential seafarer claimants.

Tore Henriksen, President and Managing Director of Döhle Shipmanagement Phils. Corp., said during the symposium that despite the upstanding reputation of Filipino seafarers in global shipping, there remains to be a significant decline in their recruitment.

“We have a substantial reduction in their deployment, however, because it is more complicated here in the Philippines than elsewhere in the world. Ambulance chasing is part of the very complicating factors. It is a tragedy for seafarers, and more so for the shipowners. From a financial perspective, it is a scam. Shipowners see this as an accusation that they do not care about their people,” he said.

The event was in cooperation with the ALMA Group and the International Transport Workers Federation and supported by the Maritime Industry Authority.