Senate panels OK proposed ‘Good Samaritan at Sea’ law
MANILA, Philippines — Two Senate panels have recently approved a bill seeking to mandate the duty of rendering assistance at sea and stiff penalties for violators.
The Senate foreign relations committee and public service jointly recommended the plenary approval of Senate Bill No. 9172, or the proposed “Good Samaritan at Sea” law, through Committee Report No. 161
The report was signed by 14 senators.
Under the measure, the shipmaster has the duty to “render assistance to any person or persons found at sea in danger of being lost” and to “proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress” upon receiving a distress signal from any source.
After a collision or other incidents of navigation, the bill provides that the master of the ship that caused or is involved in the incident to render assistance to the other ship, its crew, and its passengers.
In answering a distress signal, the shipmaster is mandated to “inform the ship in distress and the appropriate search and rescue service or the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that his or her ship is proceeding with all speed to render assistance to the ship in distress.”
The master of the ship should also provide information on the status of the assistance being provided by it.
‘Inability, failure to render assistance’
If the ship receiving the distress signal is “unable” or “considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to proceed to their assistance”—due to nature of the case or that extending assistance would cause “serious danger” to his own ship and people on board, the shipmaster is required to enter in a logbook the reason for failing to proceed to the assistance accordingly inform the appropriate search and rescue service or the PCG immediately.
The master of the ship will be released from the obligation to render assistance under the bill once the logbook requirement has been complied with.
The shipmaster of a vessel in distress, the PCG, and the concern search and rescue service—upon consultation with the ship that received the distress call—“has the right to requisition one or more of those ships as they consider best able to render assistance”
“It shall be the duty of the master or masters of the ship or ships requisitioned to comply with the requisition by continuing to proceed with all speed to the assistance of persons in distress,” according to the bill.
The measure defined requisition as the “temporary take over or command of the ship, with the consent of its master, by the master of a ship in distress, the search, and rescue service concerned or the Philippine Coast Guard, solely for the purpose of rendering assistance to a ship in distress.”
The master of the ship that received a distress call will no longer be obligated to render assistance if he has been informed that his vessel has not been requisitioned and that other ships have already been tapped to extend help.
Another instance where a shipmaster is released from obligation to provide assistance is when he has been informed by those in distress, the concerned search and rescue service, the PCG, the master of another ship tapped for help that assistance is no longer necessary.
If enacted into law, failure to comply with the obligations provided in the measure is punishable by a fine of up to P1 million.
A fine of up to P5 million will be slapped “if the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, collision or any other incident of navigation.”
Meanwhile, if the failure to render assistance is committed within internal waters, archipelagic waters or territorial sea, an additional penalty of up to one year of imprisonment will be imposed.
An additional of up to two years are imposed “if the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, collision or any other incident of navigation.”
“No foreign national shall be deported without the payment of the fines and/or service of sentence imposed by the court provided herein,” the bill also stated.
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