Dennis Gorecho .
WREATH thrown into the sea is a tradition that carry to all the deceased seafarers the message of love and gratitude as the flowers embody life and resurrection.
The wreath’s circular shape represents eternity for it has no beginning and no end.
From a Christian religious perspective, it represents an unending circle of life or the victory of the eternal spirit over death.
A job of a seafarer is not exactly a walk in the park as his job obviously entails laborious manual tasks conducted in a moving ship.
He is mentally, physically and emotionally stressed sailing non-stop for weeks or months aside from exposure to fluctuating extreme temperatures as the ships cross ocean boundaries.
In some instances, a seafarer unfortunately dies due to illness or injury. The seafaring profession is not without incident or peril since there are maritime disasters that result in the loss of life of and injury to Filipino seafarers.
Under a Standard Employment Contract duly approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA-SEC), in the case of work-related death of the seafarer, during the term of his contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine currency equivalent to the amount of US$50,000 and an additional amount of US$7,000 to each child under the age of 21 but not exceeding four children.
The amount usually is higher if the death is covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Under the 1996 SEC, for disability or death to be compensable, it was sufficient that the seafarer suffered injury or illness during the term of his employment. The cause of illness or death is immaterial.
However, through the lobbying of the principals and their manning agencies, the restrictive clause “work-related” was added under Section 20(B)of the 2000 POEA SEC to limit their liabilities., which again appeared in the 2010 contract.
The current POEA SEC defined “work-related injury” as “injury(ies) resulting in disability or death arising out of and in the course of employment” and “work-related illness” as “any sickness resulting to disability or death as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of the contract.”
This led to the filing of numerous cases by the beneficiaries due to the denials of the claims for death benefits.
The beneficiary is the person to whom the death compensation and other benefits are paid based on the Philippine law on succession.
Not all designated allottee is automatically considered as beneficiary as the right of the allottee is limited to the allotment of the seafarer, which is equivalent to at least 80 percent of his or her monthly basic salary.
In deciding these cases, the Supreme Court stressed that the perilous nature of the Filipino seafarer’s work must be considered in determining the proper benefits to be awarded. The Court added that these benefits, at the very least, should approximate the risks they brave on board the vessel every single day.
The annual Ecumenical Memorial at Sea of the National Seafarers Day (NSD) is a reminder that there is no distance of time or oceans but a mutual waiting for eternal reunion in peace.
Prayers are offered and flowers are thrown to the open seas as homage to deceased seafarers and are the expression of the fragrance and beauty of love given and received.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring Aug. 18 as National Seafarers’ Day aimed to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime country. Later, Proclamation No. 1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos which moved NSD to every last Sunday of September every year.
The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) Philippines was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sector in activities related to the celebration of said event.
The Sunday masses all over the country are offered to the Filipino seafarers.
This year’s 24th NSD is set on September 29, 2019 with the theme “Marinong Filipino- Kababaihan: Palakasin sa Industriya!”
Other weeklong NSD activities nationwide led by AOS include the novenas, oratorical/ art/photo contest, boodlefight, Harana by the Bay,karaoke challenge, and the Search for Ten Outstanding Maritime Students, and the Grand Parade participated in by stakeholders.
The NSD coincides with the National Maritime Week celebrated every last week of September spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
(Lawyer Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)