Labor group asks bicameral panel to guard vs escrow provision in Magna Carta for Seafarers | Inquirer News

Labor group asks bicameral panel to guard vs escrow provision in Magna Carta for Seafarers

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 04:23 PM December 04, 2023

Labor group asks bicameral panel to guard vs escrow provision in Magna Carta for Seafarers


MANILA, Philippines—A labor group has called on the bicameral conference committee that will tackle the proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers to scrap the “anti-seafarer” escrow provision inserted in the bill.

In a demonstration held last week to commemorate the 160th birth anniversary of revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio, several groups called out the government on some crucial issues in the country—including a specific provision in the proposed seafarer bill.


House Bill (HB) No. 7325, or the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers which seeks to provide Filipino seafarers full protection before, during, and after employment, was approved last March 6.


However, several labor and human rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the escrow provision in the bill, which has been previously described as a “nefariously anti-labor insertion.”

Among those who supported the removal of the provision in the proposed measure seeking to protect the rights of seafarers was the National Association of Trade Unions (NATU). The group likewise offered support to other groups that were against the provision.

“Our federation sympathizes with them, especially the Amor Seaman group, which [is] continuously fighting for the exclusion of the escrow provision from the proposed Magna Carta,” said NATU president Michael Apostol.

In the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, Section 51—“Escrow as a Manner of Execution”—states that:

“Any monetary award by the arbitrator to the seafarer, or the seafarer’s successors-in-interest, made whether in a voluntary or mandatory arbitration, or by the National Labor Relations Commission, shall be placed in escrow if the employer or manning agency has raised or intends to raise the decision for judicial review in accordance with the Rules of Court.”

It added that “the amount shall remain in escrow until the issuance of an entry of judgment by the appropriate reviewing court or when the employer or manning agency fails to perfect the appeal or petition for review. The fees in obtaining or maintaining the escrow account shall be paid by the employer or the manning agency.”


READ: Group questions escrow provision in proposed Magna Carta for seafarers

In a column published by the Cebu Daily News (CDN), lawyer Dennis Gorecho said OFW money claims cases take an average of 7.2 years to go through the entire judicial process from the date of filing of the complaint at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) until the time the Supreme Court decides on it, if it reaches the high court.

“The seafarer will wait for longer years before they receive the NLRC/National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) award if the proposed escrow provision will be included,” Gorecho explained.

“Without any leverage in prosecuting his monetary claims, chances are, the seafarer bows to the demand of his employer to either drop his claim or accept a small settlement,” he added.

“In the end, the ‘balance of scale’ will tilt more to capital as this will protect the business interest of the manning agencies and their principal rather than the seafarers themselves,” he added.

READ: Magna carta should expand, and not limit, the seafarers’ rights

Prevent insertion of escrow provision

Voting 14-0-0, the senators last September passed Senate Bill No. 2221, or the Senate’s version of the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers.

However, unlike its counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, Senator Raffy Tulfo, during the interpellations for Senate Bill No. 2221, assured that the Senate’s version of the bill will not insert the escrow provision.

READ: Senate OKs Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers bill on final reading

The proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers will soon be handled by the bicameral conference committee, which is tasked with reconciling the differences between the two different versions of the bill that have been approved by each chamber.

With the upcoming bicameral committee meetings on the proposed bill, NATU urged legislators to prevent the insertion of the escrow provision in the proposed seafarers’ Magna Carta, which aims to protect the welfare and rights of Filipino seafarers.

“We support the call of Amor and other labor groups for Senator Tulfo and other senators, as well as the House headed by Speaker Romualdez, to be on guard in preventing the insertion of the escrow provision or any other provision of the same nature and purpose in the final bill in order that the seafarers and their families will truly benefit from the Magna Carta law,” said Apostol.

‘Fiduciary account’

According to NATU, there have been talks circulating around about the alleged efforts of different people and groups favoring manning agencies to include the escrow provision under a different name.

Gorecho, in his CDN column published on Nov. 28, claimed that the proponents recently changed the term “escrow” into “fiduciary deposit” in the latest version of the provision.

NATU said the so-called fiduciary account or fiduciary deposit is “basically the same as escrow provision” since it “intends to prolong the execution of the final and executory awarded disability or death benefits until the final judgment of the appeals courts.”

“This is worrisome because if this provision will pass into law, the seafarers will be at [a] disadvantage as it will result [in] lack of financial resources to have means of living while recovering from disability and may even result to [the] death of ailing repatriated seamen,” the group said.

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“[W]hat is more alarming is that there is a high chance that the land-based workers and other labor sectors will suffer the same fate. If this happens, the equal footing in law that our Constitution gives the lowly laborers will be rendered nugatory. This is also the reason why we support the Amor Seaman group,” said Apostol.

Plea to Senate: Pass Magna Carta for seafarers but scrap escrow
Escrow: Fly in the ointment in proposed Magna Carta for seafarers

TAGS: escrow, fiduciary deposit, House Bill No. 7325, INQFocus, Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers, seafarer, Senate Bill No. 2221

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