LABOR Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said seafarers need to be better protected and proposed amendments to the 15-year-old maritime convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

In a statement Sunday, Mr. Bello said the convention does not ensure fair treatment and protection for seafarers as it “only encourages the member-states to cooperate to facilitate the investigation of serious marine casualties.”

In a virtual meeting with maritime and seafaring industry leaders and advocates last week, Mr. Bello said the pandemic has greatly altered the global landscape for maritime labor, making the need to modify the Maritime Labour Convention, also known as the seafarers’ bill of rights, more urgent.

“We must chart strategic and appropriate measures to continuously protect our seafarers in dealing with fresh opportunities as the world faces a new normal,” he said.

The Philippines is one of the biggest suppliers of seafarers, deploying about half a million every year. As such, Mr. Bello said the fair treatment of seafarers is one of the country’s top priorities.

He said seafarers are considered essential workers in the Philippines, and are “among the priority recipients in the government’s national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.”

A measure is also pending in Congress to exempt seafarers from movement and travel restrictions to facilitate their ability to obtain travel and work documents. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago