Manning agents laud Palace’s swift response

As published by The Daily Tribune on April 19, 2023

Malacañang’s prompt response to the United Filipino Seafarers’ open letter backing the passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers through an advertisement in Daily Tribune earned praise from manning agencies.

Association of Licensed Manning Agencies trustee Atty. Iris Baguilat said the group received no opposition from industry stakeholders, particularly seafarer unions, to any of the proceedings regarding the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, including its escrow provision.

“We appreciate the statement made by Engr. Nelson Ramirez of the United Filipino Seafarers, as it confirms the unions’ lack of objection to the proposed bill’s escrow provision. Additionally, we are pleased with the President’s consistent attention to the seafaring industry and his understanding of the predatory practices of ambulance chasers regarding seafarers’ compensation,” Baguilat told the Daily Tribune.

She added: “We must emphasize that a system breakdown exists, and the only conceivable solution is the implementation of an escrow provision.”

She said that by requiring money from a dispute to be deposited in an escrow account, shipowners will be held accountable for the immediate payment of any National Labor Relations Commission or National Conciliation and Mediation Board award.

“This removes any concerns of shipowners fleeing, becoming insolvent, or not fulfilling payment in the future. Additionally, an escrow deposit safeguards the awarded funds against predatory ambulance chasers, ensuring that the money is preserved for the winning party on appeal,” Baguilat said.

The Palace, through the Presidential Communications Office, reacted to the letter, published in Daily Tribune on the same day, that sought the help of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the immediate passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers and the inclusion of the escrow provision to protect seafarers from unscrupulous lawyers.

Bill’s author delighted too

Meanwhile, the author of the Magna Carta for Seafarers, Kabayan Partylist Representative Ron Salo, extolled the UFS for its public support for the bill.

“The UFS endorsement is resounding proof that the passage of the bill, with its provision on escrow, enjoys the unqualified support of the seafarers themselves, contrary to disinformation by certain quarters who are benefitting from the status quo,” Salo said.

In the open letter, UFS endorsed HB 7325 and thanked the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs chaired by Salo. In particular, UFS said that the escrow provision of the bill will avert the loss of job opportunities for Filipino seafarers.

“Aside from ensuring the welfare and health of our seafarers while they are deployed at sea, it is also crucial that we put up measures that will protect our seafarers’ finances from unscrupulous ambulance-chasing groups and individuals. The provision on escrow will greatly redound to, and ultimately benefit the seafarers themselves,” Salo said.

“UFS’s unqualified support of this bill, particularly the provision on escrow, gives me peace and confidence that we have passed a balanced, well-crafted, and compassionate bill,” Salo added.

“I also thank Malacañang for recognizing the plight of our seafarers. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take swift and appropriate action so we can finally put an end to the practice of ambulance chasing,” he added.

The Palace said they are very well aware that Filipino seafarers are being preyed on and taken advantage of by these unscrupulous individuals for the sake of making a buck.

“The government is doing all it can to protect and look after the welfare of our seafarers and their families who ultimately bear the burden of these unscrupulous groups and individuals. With this in mind, the administration assures the public at large that the entire government system will be working to address and stop these horrific practices that erode the credibility and competence of the seafaring industry in the country,” the Palace said on Monday.