Bill to protect Filipino fishermen filed in Senate 

In light of the recent incident in the West Philippine Sea, Senator Francis Tolentino filed a Senate bill that seeks to implement provisions in international maritime law for the safety of Filipino fishermen’s lives.

In his explanatory note, Tolentino said the Bill 209 — also known as the “Good Samaritan at Sea Law — “was crafted to ensure that persons guilty of jeopardizing the lives of men at sea and those who unreasonably fail to render assistance to persons in distress at sea do not go unpunished.”

On June 9, the lives of 22 Filipino fishermen were put at risk after a Chinese vessel hit their fishing boat near Recto Bank. They were left adrift in the open sea until a Vietnamese vessel rescued them.

As reported by the Philippine Star, the bill aims to implement provisions in international maritime instruments ratified by the Philippine government concerning the safety of life at sea and the duty to render assistance to persons in distress at sea to which the Philippines is a state party to, including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 and its Protocols of 1978 and 1988 and Agreement of 1996.

“As a key player in the global maritime industry, it is but imperative for the country to stay true to its commitments to the international community to implement and enforce laws affecting maritime safety in order to protect not just the standing of the country in the international community but to protect the very lives of the thousands of Filipinos at sea,” Tolentino explained.

According to him, any violation committed against the law will result to paying a fine of not less than P5 million to P10 million. Meanwhile, if the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, the fine shall not be less than P10 million, but not more than P20 million.

“If the violation was committed within internal waters or within the territorial sea, an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than a year shall be imposed. If the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than a year and a day but not more than two years shall be imposed,” Tolentino said.

He added that the jurisdiction to determine violations and impose appropriate penalties thereto shall belong to any of the regional trial courts in the province or the city nearest to the place where the distress occurred. 

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