MANILA — The substitute bill on the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers, which was approved by the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, includes a provision establishing Seafarer Welfare Centers, under the management of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
So said Thursday Committee chair KABAYAN Partylist Rep. Ron Salo as he explained that the Seafarer Welfare Centers will offer services that promote the welfare of and cater to the recreational, cultural, religious, and communication needs of seafarers.
“It will be akin to a “tambayan” where our seafarers have access to services for their holistic growth,” Salo said.
“For so long, the programs of the OWWA prioritized our land-based OFWs. Let us now cater to the needs of our seafarers whose concerns have been often overlooked,” Salo said.
“As mentioned by OWWA Admin Arnell Ignacio in our last committee hearing, seafarers along the streets of Kalaw, under the heat of the sun, have a hard time processing their documents, as well as their money claims. As such, they become vulnerable to ambulance chasers,” Salo explained.
“These Welfare Centers will also house One-Stop Shop Centers for Seafarers to facilitate their government transactions, specifically in processing their licenses, permits, clearances, and other documents they need,” Salo said.
“These centers will go a long way in alleviating our seafarers’ hardships by providing facilities for them to contact their families, socialize with other seafarers, and provide recreational and cultural facilities,” Salo added.
The Magna Carta specifies the following as priority areas for the establishment of the Seafarer Welfare Centers: NCR, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao and other areas where there is a high concentration of seafarers.
Included also in the Magna Carta is the provision of free legal assistance to seafarers by the Public Attorney’s Office.
“These enhancements in the Magna Carta will also help address concerns of manning agencies and shipowners on ambulance chasers, which have tarnished the reputation of the country’s maritime industry,” Salo concluded.