The lone seafarers’ party list group in the House of the Representatives blames the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for its failure to implement the ILO Convention No. 185 – an international labor standard designed to create a new biometric identity verification system for the world’s more than a million seafarers that received adequate ratifications and came into force in February 2005.

ILO Convention No. 185 was adopted by the International Labor Conference in June 2003 to bolster international security in the global sea shipping industry. Convention No. 185 was adopted to replace the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention No. 108 (1958) which has been hailed as a major step toward strengthening security measures on the high seas and in the world’s ports.

At the same time, it is also designed to ensure the rights and freedoms of maritime workers and facilitate mobility in the exercise of their profession - for example when they board their ships to work, take shore leave or return home, ILO said in its website.

ILO further explained that in the framework of Convention No. 185, the Governing Body of the ILO approved in March 2004 a biometric verification system, which provides a more rigorous response to the need for increased security in the maritime industry. The new identity document for seafarers allows for the use of a “biometric template” to turn two fingerprints of a seafarer into an internationally standardized 2-D barcode on the Seafarer’s Identity Document (SID).

When asked by this writer on the supposed implementation of the Convention which requires the issuance of the biometric ID or commonly known as the SID, ANGKLA Partylist Rep. Jesulito Manalo expressed disappointment on the Administration’s failure to implement the Convention. He even mentioned the budget allocated for the biometric ID.

“Well, that’s why I’m calling them for the next budget meeting. I was the one who funded that, I gave them P110 million to implement ILO Convention No. 185. And I’m asking them nasaan ang absorption capacity nyo? May pera kayo hindi nyo ginagamit,” Atty. Manalo begins.

According to Atty. Manalo, within a year upon the allocation of the budget, the agency should have procured it with the corresponding bidding, thus it becomes a procurement operation.

“I think, ang nangyari, when I created the P300 million for their funds in the construction of their office in Roxas Blvd. and P180 million in regional offices, I have to look into it na may ginagawa sila. In the last budget hearing, tayo yung building, nakita ko sa budget nila walang improvement. So I called their attention, you asked for a budget, may building kayo, nasaan ang pondo ninyo for that?”, the lawmaker inquired.

Atty. Manalo explained that he called the secretary (DOTr) who promised to fund the project adding that there is a ‘wrongful performance’ in accordance with the law with the continued failure to execute the project.

“Pinapanood ko yung budget na binibigay sa kanila kung ginagamit at ma-i-implement. Because failure to do so is actually a violation and it’s misfeasance. Well, kasalanan nila yan ang sabi ko sa kanila, hindi kayo humihingi ng tulong, I’m a member of AFRO, hindi kayo humihingi, hindi ko kayo bibigyan.” Atty. Manalo stressed.

Atty. Manalo even compared MARINA to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) which he said has an approved budget of P5 billion while the former remains empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Employers’ groups, workers’ groups and governments represented at the Governing Body supported the approval of a new standard as a matter of urgency to meet new security measures already being imposed on seafarers worldwide.

All countries ratifying Convention No. 185 will be able to issue new SIDs that conforms to the requirements specified in standard ILO SID-0002 Finger Minutiae-Based Biometric Profile for Seafarers’ ldentity Documents. The 1958 instrument had been ratified by 61 ILO member States representing 60.7 per cent of the world shipping fleet. These member States also can, under certain conditions, already issue updated documents pending their ratification of the new Convention.

In addition, border authorities around the world will be able to check the authenticity of a SID produced by a seafarer, as the new Convention enables them to verify information in the SID either by reference to the national electronic database in which each issued SID must be stored, or through the national focal point of the country of issuance, which must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Back in 2012, several electronic mails were received by Buhay Marino Dyaryo charging the Philippine government for its inaction in passing the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 185.

According to a senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, their vessel came from Rio Grande in Brazil and acquired a copy of the convention from the Brazilian Federal Public Service, Federal Police Department and Immigration Police, stating the Philippines as a non-signatory to the ILO Conventions 108 or 185, thus restricting the Filipino seamen from going ashore, joining vessel or signing off.

He cited a number of instances on how the convention affects the Filipino seafarers.

1. If a Filipino seafarer is onboard a Singaporean flagged vessel which is not a signatory as well, he cannot go ashore, join vessel or sign-off.

2. If a Filipino seafarer is onboard Liberian flagged vessel which is a signatory to the Convention, he can go ashore only by using Liberian Seaman’s book but he cannot join and be repatriated since airport immigrations are checking passports not the Liberian seaman’s book.

3. If a Filipino seafarer is onboard a non-signatory flagged vessel but from his previous company, he is a holder of a Liberian Seaman’s book, which is a signatory to the Convention, he is still not allowed to go ashore, join vessel or sign-off since there is no connection from the Liberian to his present status as a servant to the vessel. The senior officer added that the immigration officer visited their vessel and reminded them that the Brazilian government is taking the issue extremely seriously.

Former president Benigno S. Aquino II ratified the ILO Convention No. 185 in 19 January 2012 while the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland has transmitted the Philippines’ instrument of ratification of ILO Convention 185 to the International Labor Organization (ILO) in March 2012.

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