THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is now pushing for the amendment of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006 to include provisions which will protect seafarers amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said he wants the MLC to be more responsive to the challenges now faced by seafarers worldwide so they could cope with the effects of the pandemic.

“We must chart strategic and appropriate measures to continuously protect our seafarers in dealing with fresh opportunities as the world faces a new normal,” Bello said in his address before maritime leaders during the virtual meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently.

Crafted in 2006 by maritime stakeholders during the International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the MLC serves as the seafarers’ bill of rights.

Bello noted that currently, the MLC, which took effect in 2013, remains ambiguous in “providing fair treatment and protection to seafarers.”

Bello said, “[The Convention] only encourages the member-states to cooperate to facilitate the investigation of serious marine casualties. We need to act to correct such ambiguities in the code.”

The International Labour Organization (ILO), he said, may consider the measures adopted by the government during the pandemic to address the needs of seafarers.

Among these measures is the Philippine Green Lane for seafarers, which facilitates their safe and swift disembarkation as well as crew change during the pandemic.

The labor chief also cited the government’s guidelines for the repatriation and deployment of seafarers during emergencies, which includes exempting them from travel restrictions and prioritizing them in the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

“We fully recognize our seafarers as essential workers who play a vital role in the economy which is why they are among the priority recipients in the government’s national Covid vaccination rollout,” Bello said.

DOLE issued the statement after the country formally took over the chairmanship of the government body of the ILO last July, which will allow it to influence the agenda of the next ILC.

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