The National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP), a government maritime training research center, located at Cabalawan, Tacloban City spearheaded the conduct of a hybrid symposium on the campaign against Ambulance Chasing with the theme “Karapatan: Sama-Samang Ingatan” on September 28, 2022 at the NMP Training Annex Building.

The symposium served as a venue for Filipino seafarers to be apprised of the services, programs and initiatives of maritime-related government agencies and other industry stakeholders in upholding their welfare and securing their rights consistent with Republic Act 10706 (An Act protecting Seafarers against Ambulance Chasing and Imposition of Excessive Fees and providing penalties thereof).

The symposium is one of the activities for the said campaign of the convenors namely the International Seafarers’ Welfare Association Network (ISWAN), Associated Marine Officer’s and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) and NMP.

In her opening message, NMP OIC Executive Director Mayla N. Macadawan expressed that the issue on Ambulance Chasing is prominent hence, the discussion on the doable measures to fight and eradicate the crime is highly relevant and timely. “Awareness raises consciousness, leading to the actions of all concerned. With the actions we could create plans and programs that would address the pressing problem at hand.”, she emphasized.

On behalf Secretary Susan V. Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Assistant Secretary Jerome T. Pampolina delivered the Keynote Message of the department highlighting the substantial contributions of the Filipino seafarers in the global economy. “Our vision for the DMW is that it will be the exclusive home in government of our OFWs including specially our seafarers and their families that protects their rights, promotes their welfare and unleashes their potential to fulfill their destiny as co-architects of national economic development. The DMW law and its IRR recognize the significance of Filipino seafarers by creating a separate office for sea-based OFW concerns which shall address all policy issues concerning seafarers,” he shared. He also added, “We also want to include the NMP to become part of that task force where MARINA and CHED and the DMW will enhance education and training of our seafarers. Another priority program of the DMW is that we will work with the private sector and the association of seafarers to train more officers.”

DOLE Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma was represented by Undersecretary Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio, Jr. who expressed, “The theme for this symposium is Karapatan: Sama-samang Ingatan. Indeed, in order to effectively fight ambulance chasing, the key is Sama-sama. We cannot leave it to the seafarer alone to cease ambulance chasing. All stakeholders must work together in order to fight this pernicious problem. With the enactment of the new Department of Migrant Workers Act, the DOLE is now in the process of transferring and transitioning its overseas migration labor functions to the DMW and this process particularly involve the POEA, OWWA, NMP and the operation of the Philippine overseas labor offices”.

It can be noted that the campaign is a result of the prevailing issue on monetary claims of ocean-going seafarers who suffer from work-related injuries or illnesses and engage in the services of unscrupulous individuals requiring exorbitant legal fees to process and file claims in their behalf against shipowners but at the end will only result to seafarers and/or their families to receive what is far from the amount of the award granted by the judicial body / court as paid by the shipping principals. This continuing concern negatively affects the seafarers and adversely impacts on the Philippine maritime industry as a whole. It was discussed that foreign shipping principals are discouraged to continue hiring Filipino seafarers because of the issue.

Resource persons during the activity were: Assistant Secretary Jerome T. Pampolina of DMW; Atty. Kim Marie M. Roque-Aquino of NCMB; Atty. Jennifer R. Santos of NLRC; Atty. Emmanuel Partido of AMOSUP; Ms. Aiza Baustista of ISWAN Philippines; and Capt. Gaudencio Morales representing the Filipino Association for Mariner’s Employment (FAME) and Joint Manning Group (JMG). Each discussant talked about their programs, services and initiatives aimed toward seafarers’ welfare and well-being.

Indeed, empowering seafarers by keeping them well-informed is seen as a proactive measure to come-up with win-win solutions on matters regarding the protection of their career and employment.

Meanwhile, possible solutions and recommendations were discussed during the open forum.

The symposium was attended by seafarers, representatives of the crewing agencies and shipping companies, seafarers’ unions, mariitme organizations, families of seafarers and the convenors.