Tolentino backs passage of proposed “Good Samaritan at Sea Law”

Tolentino backs passage of proposed “Good Samaritan at Sea Law”

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senator Francis ‘Tol’ N. Tolentino pushed for the approval of
proposed legislation that seeks mandatory implementation of existing
ratified maritime treaties which cover the safety of life at sea (SOLAS).

In his co-sponsorship speech for Senate Bill No. 1972, Tolentino said
the recent maritime incident along the West Philippine Sea (WPS) that
involved the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen must never happen again
and those who will fail to render assistance to distressed persons must
not go unpunished, especially if the incident is within the Philippine
territorial waters.

Tolentino, one of the principal authors of SB 1972 stressed that being
a key player in the global maritime industry, it is only necessary for
the Philippine Government stay true to its commitments to the
international community to implement and enforce laws affecting
maritime safety.

SB 1972 or the proposed “Good Samaritan at Sea Law,” aims to implement
the provisions concerning the safety of life at sea and the duty to render
assistance to persons in distress at sea in the said International
Maritime instruments ratified by the Philippine Government.

Tolentino noted that although there are standing conventions to which,
the Philippines is a state party and provide for obligations to render
assistance to persons in distress at sea, these provisions are not
self-executing.

The Philippines is a signatory in the International Convention for the
Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 and its Protocols of 1978 and 1988 and
Agreement of 1996 (SOLAS); and the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). These international conventions according to
Tolentino provides that domestic laws must be enacted in order to
implement its provisions.

Article 275 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes abandonment of a person
in danger and abandonment of one’s own victim.

Under Section 5 of SB 1972, the ship captain/master of the vessel is
mandated to render assistance to any person or persons found at sea in
the danger of being lost, as well as to proceed with the rescue of persons
in distress, upon receiving a signal from any source.

Failure to comply with any of the obligations listed in SB 1972 shall
be punishable by a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P1
million, depending on the size of the vessel or ship to be determined
in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the measure.

If the violation—due to failure to render assistance—did happen within
the country’s internal waters, archipelagic waters or territorial sea,
an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months but
not one year shall be imposed.

Meanwhile, an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than one
a year and one day but not more than two years shall be imposed if the
offender is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at
sea, collision, or any other incident of navigation.

As an archipelago with around 330,000 Filipino seafarers and around
1.9 million registered small-scale fishermen, Tolentino said that it
is more imperative for the government to be firm in protecting their
lives by making it a legal obligation to render assistance to persons
in distress at sea. (ai/mtvn)

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