In­dus­try alarmed over de­cline in sea­far­ers de­ploy­ment

Manila Times - - News - WIL­LIAM B. DEPASUPIL

THE de­cline in the de­ploy­ment of Filipino sea­far­ers on board in­ter­na­tional ves­sels has alarmed the mar­itime in­dus­try as it seeks con­gres­sional sup­port to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Cit­ing statis­tics from the Philip­pine Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion POEA), the 57,000-strong United Filipino Sea­far­ers (UFS), a union of mar­itime pro­fes­sion­als, said a to­tal of 64,748 Filipino sea­men lost their jobs last year.

POEA records showed that to­tal of 378,072 Filipino sea-based work­ers were de­ployed last year com­pared with 442,820 in 2016. The size­able drop in de­ploy­ment was the first since 2010.

Aside from in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic tur­moil and the swelling of mar­itime grad­u­ates ev­ery year, in­dus­try lead­ers blamed the prob­lem on the pro­lif­er­a­tion of “am­bu­lance chasers,” which they claimed has dis­ap­pointed and dis­heart­ened for­eign ship own­ers.

CF Sharp Crew Man­age­ment pres­i­dent and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Miguel Rocha said they lost roughly 1,000 crew from the am­bu­lance chas­ing con­tro­versy.

Am­bu­lance ped­dling is a prac­tice where sea­far­ers pre­tend to be sick, and with the help of a lawyer, will file a case against the man­ning agency and ask for a to­tal dis­abil­ity claims, among other means. The set­tle­ment usu­ally amounts to mil­lions of pe­sos.

The sea­farer’s lawyer, in con­nivance with cor­rupt ar­biters at the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion (NLRC) and at the Na­tional Con­cil­i­a­tion and Me­di­a­tion Board (NCMB), will make sure the am­bu­lance chaser wins the case.

The NLRC and NCMB are ad­junct agen­cies of the De­part­ment of La­bor and Em­ploy­ment.

“Filipino mar­itime pro­fes­sion­als are com­pet­i­tive and at­trac­tive since they are de­pend­able, hard­work­ing, with good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and are pro­fi­cient in English. Thus, sea­far­ers has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant work­force of the Philip­pines’ to­tal la­bor force, bring­ing in $6 bil­lion in re­mit­tances to gov­ern­ment cof­fers, but sadly, things are to­tally dif­fer­ent now,” Rocha said.

Prin­ci­pals los­ing faith

But he said their prin­ci­pals were get­ting sick and tired of the un­der­handed prac­tice, prompt­ing some of them to leave the coun­try and hire sea­far­ers from China, In­done­sia, Viet­nam, Myan­mar, Rus­sia, Ukraine and In­dia, among other emerg­ing sea­far­ing coun­ter­parts.

Mar­itime cap­tain Rey Casareo of Cargo Safe­way Inc., a man­ning agency, pro­jected that Filipino man­ning agen­cies were bound to lose $49 mil­lion in rev­enues by 2019 if am­bu­lance chasers con­tinue with their schemes.

The UFS, glob­ally rec­og­nized union of mar­itime pro­fes­sion­als with 57,000 mem­bers, is also alarmed by the steep de­cline of Filipino sea­men on board in­ter­na­tional ships.

UFS pres­i­dent Nel­son Ramirez feared that the de­ploy­ment drop would con­tinue to worsen un­less gov­ern­ment stepped in to ad­dress the prob­lem.

“Imag­ine 64,748 sea­far­ers lost their jobs? And, God for­bids, we ex­pect more of this drop in the near fu­ture. It’s alarm­ing. We can ex­pect thou­sands of sea­far­ers loi­ter­ing in Kalaw Street if we will lose more prin­ci­pals and for­eign ship own­ers,” he said.

Ramirez, a sea­soned sea­farer, claimed that am­bu­lance chasers were mak­ing ship own­ers and prin­ci­pals their milk­ing cows.

“We con­sider them a mafia which hounds the in­dus­try, as th­ese ‘starv­ing beasts’ are wait­ing for the com­pen­sa­tion that is be­ing awarded to sea­far­ers by some ill-fated man­ning agen­cies and prin­ci­pals,” he claimed.

“There are some older sea­far­ers who pre­tend to be sick, and there are lawyers ready to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion by con­vinc­ing the sea­farer to file a case against the man­ning agency and ask for to­tal dis­abil­ity,” Ramirez added in Filipino.

He said the while mil­lions were usu­ally paid to the sea­farer who files for dis­abil­ity claim, more than half of the com­pen­sa­tion is paid to the lawyer.

Ramirez said it was time stake­hold­ers united, and the sup­port of Congress be sought to end the prac­tice of am­bu­lance chas­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.