NGO’s 3-day seminar on occupational health, labor rights kicks off today

The International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc., a non-governmental organization (NGO) here in Manila, is preparing for a three-day seminar on occupational health and safety at sea and labor rights for Filipino seafarers this kicks off today, March 31 and will conclude, April 2.

The said seminar is part of the whole education and unification campaign of the NGO, in partnership with Danish labor leaders and the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs of Denmark, through its Danish Development Assistance (DANIDA), says Ms. Cristina Clemente-Tiozon, head of the Committee on Information, Publication and Media of the ISAC said in an interview.

“The seminar aims to equip Filipino seafarers and soon-to-be seafarers about their rights and how to take care of themselves while at sea,” she said.

The newly established National Union of Filipino Seafarers Crewing Danish Ship (FILDAN, also serves as a partner in this noble endeavor, she furthered.

Clemente-Tiozon said, their speakers include Mr. Henrik Berlau, a labor expert from Denmark; maritime labor lawyers Edwin Soriano de la Cruz and Joseph Tolang Entero; Dr. Virgel C. Binghay, Ph.D., of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (Solair) of the University of the Philippines, Diliman; Dr. Noriel Devenadera of the Maritime Office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) of the DOLE; and Mr. Gert Christenson of the 3F United Danish Workers’ Federation.

Also invited were representatives from the Apostleship of the Sea and different seafarers’ unions and associations.

“Maritime work is both rewarding as well as risky. While our seafarers are receiving a relative high salary and other benefits, they are also often get abused,” she told this reporter.

Clemente-Tiozon said, some of their clients are victims of illegal termination, non-payment of wages, occupation-related diseases, had become disabled due to the performance of their work but the company refuses to pay them, and even sexual harassment for women seafarers.

“This happens due to the non-compliance of some shipping companies to the international labor and occupational health and safety standards,” she said.

“However, what is more saddening, the manning and shipping agencies can easily get away from their responsibilities because of the Flag of Convenience (FoC) system,” she added.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation defines FoC as, “Where beneficial ownership and control of a vessel is found to lie elsewhere than in the country of the flag the vessel is flying, the vessel is considered as sailing under a flag of convenience.”

To date, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda (UK), Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Comoros, Cyprus, Equatorial Guinea, French International Ship Register (FIS), German International Ship Register (GIS), Georgia, Gibraltar (UK), Honduras, Jamaica, Lebanon, Liberia, Malta, Marshall Islands (USA), Mauritius, Mongolia, Netherlands Antilles, North Korea, Panama, São Tome and Príncipe, St. Vincent, Sri Lanka, Tonga and Vanuatu are states used as FOC, read the ITF website.

Clemente-Tiozaon said that the ISAC hopes that this seminar can produce well-informed and empowered seafarers that can also teach and empower fellow seafarers while there are in land and at sea. (Noel Sales Barcelona)