It’s happening at long last. On 13th August 2012, the Philippine Senate adopted Resolution No. 829 in which it gave its nod to the ratification of ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006. The resolution was filed just 13 days earlier by Senator Loren Legarda. The Senate move clears the way for the country getting on board what has been described as the universal “bill of rights” for seafarers. We’re pleased, of course, at this turn of events but are we applauding?

No, we’re not. Although the Senate’s action was unusually speedy, it’s still a shame that the Philippines dilly-dallied until 29 other countries had already ratified MLC 2006, making its enforcement imminent. With Filipino seafarers remitting billions of dollars yearly to help buoy up the local economy, it should have been first in line. But why be surprised? Punctuality isn’t part of the national character. Filipinos see nothing wrong with arriving 30 minutes or even an hour late for appointments. They also love to procrastinate. Sociologists say the mañana habit is a legacy from the Spanish colonial times – a thesis that does not sound fair. The Spaniards have long gone; why haven’t the natives changed?

To compound matters, Filipinos love to talk much and engage in petty squabbles. It was talking and squabbling between two state agencies that led to the failure of the Philippines to ratify ILO Convention No. 185 (revised Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention, 2003) before it came into force in Febuary 2005. The same syndrome was behind the tardy action on MLC 2006. Whilst so-called “experts” prattled on the subject, some industry bigwigs insisted that domestic shipping be exempted from the Convention. Imagine how much the country could achieve in the maritime and non-maritime arenas if only Filipinos would cut the talking and simply focused on what needs to be done.

There’s another reason we’re not thrilled by the prospect of the Philippines finally ratifying MLC 2006. The country’s inter-island ships are undermanned; local crews are ill-trained and underpaid; and state inspectors are not above receiving grease money. How then can the Convention be properly implemented in the domestic shipping sector? Just as important, how many seafarers will take advantage of the MLC 2006 mechanism for reporting violations by shipowners? Ratifying the treaty doesn’t only mean joining the bandwagon. It means – and requires – giving full and complete effect to what has been ratified. ~Barista Uno

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MLC 2006: some are still snoozing

Quick way to understand MLC 2006