Most manning agency executives are questioning a Department of Labor and Employment order tasking them to shoulder the cost of accommodation for sea-based workers undergoing COVID-19 quarantine procedures.
In a Facebook post, former ship captain and now Eastern Mediterranean Manning Agency general manager Edgardo Flores said the department is wrong in issuing Order 211-A, adding that it erred in its interpretation of the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006.
"DOLE might have exercised ignorance or have not understood the MLC mandate. There is nothing written in MLC about the responsibility of shipowners or manning agencies after completion of contract by seafarers. The obligation only covers the period from embarkation and disembarkation," he said.
He stressed that as per the standard contract of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Magna Carta for Seafarers or MLC starts only from the period of embarkation to disembarkation of maritime professionals.
"Wala sa provision 'yan ng MLC. Yung point of hire to point of origin is about insurance. Why DOLE issued that Department Order (shows) real ignorance of what is the essence of MLC. How can DOLE or any government agency issue such an order to manning agents if a worker is not anymore connected literally to his/her employers?" Flores said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello earlier said in a statement that “the cost of board and lodging of quarantined seafarers should be shouldered by manning agencies pursuant to ILO (International Labor Organization) standards.”
The order states that the responsibility of providing for the board and lodging shall “apply among Philippine recruitment and manning agencies respectively whether during the implementation of community quarantine or under the new normal.”
Meanwhile, United Filipino Seafarers also opposed the department order, saying that such regulation may lead to the bankruptcy of most manning agencies.
"Milyones ang magagastos nila dyan araw-araw at hindi ito biro. Bakit hindi gamitin ang P7 billion trust fund ng Pinoy seafarers na nasa Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration?" said UFS President Nelson Ramirez.
"There is nowhere in the Maritime Labor Convention that after the seafarers finished their contracts the manning agency shall cover their expenses for their hotels. Standard A4.1 - Medical care board and ship and ashore are for those seafarers who are sick on board the ship or when they are brought ashore while still serving their contracts.”
"I cannot understand why the lodging of the land-based OFWs are shouldered by OWWA while the seafarers housing, among other expenses, are shouldered by the manning agency," Ramirez added.