DOLE-7 moves to protect rights of fishermen

CEBU, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment in Region (DOLE) -7 believes it’s high time to establish a balance between the interest of fishing workers and operators as the department moves to implement regulations on the working and living conditions of fishers onboard commercial fishing vessels.

“The presence of DOLE only aims to regulate the working and living conditions of the fishers and make sure that their rights and benefits in the workplace are promoted and respected in support to the Department’s agenda on decent work,” said DOLE-7 Regional Director Elias Cayanong in a statement.

DOLE-7 recently conducted a consultation with fishers and fishing vessel operators engaged in commercial fishing to discuss Department Order (D.O.) 156-16, or the Rules and Regulations Governing the Working and Living Conditions of Fishers Onboard Fishing Vessels Engaged in Commercial Fishing Operation.

The order covers all fishing vessel owners, fishers and captains or masters on board Philippine-registered fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operation in Philippine or international waters.

Cayanong said that unlike in other major industries, DOLE has not really interfered with the fishing industry insofar as the rights of the fishers are concerned.

Cayanong has urged all stakeholders involved to keep an open mind so that it would be less tasking to iron out existing problems and gaps identified in the fishing industry.

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The conduct of the consultation was the second of its kind held in Region 7 after the first one facilitated in November 2016, which was attended by commercial fishing vessel owners not only from the Visayas Region but also from other parts of the country.

Cayanong said that the concerns of the operators raised during the first consultation are being considered, hence the implementation of D.O. 156 was held in abeyance.

Cayanong said they are now introducing to the operators the proposed checklist of DOLE’s labor laws compliance that they will be following when conducting joint assessment in their vessels or when they receive complaints from the fishers or workers.

Areas to be checked and validated would include the classification of the commercial fishing vessel, minimum requirements for work, employment agreement, supervision and control of fishers, compensation scheme and other monetary benefits, social protection and the standards of occupational safety and health involving sleeping accommodation, mess rooms, sanitation facilities, among others.

Commercial fishing refers to taking of fishery species from their wild state or habitat by passive or active gear for trade, business or profit beyond recreational fishing.

“We will only come in when it is already work that we’re talking about, the workers’ humane conditions as well as their safety and health in the workplace,” Cayanong said. (FREEMAN)

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