This is the Second Quarter 2020 issue of the Regional Shipping Update of Rajah & Tann Asia’s Shipping & International Trade Practice, a publication that provides a snapshot of the key legal developments in various jurisdictions where our member firms have regional presence. In each quarter, we cover one jurisdiction, and for this issue, we focus on the Philippines with the following updates:
Supreme Court Issues Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases
On 17 September 2019, the Philippine Supreme Court (“SC“) issued Administrative Matter No. 19-08-14-SC, which is also known as the Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases (“Rules“). The Rules took effect on 1 January 2020.
The Rules are intended to:
The Rules govern the procedure in civil actions relating to admiralty laws in the country, including the issuance of a warrant of arrest of a vessel. The Rules also provide that some of the existing RTCs would be selected to act as admiralty courts.
Department of Transportation Creates the Shippers’ Protection Office
On 24 June 2020, the Department of Transportation issued Department Order No. 2020-008 creating the Shippers’ Protection Office (“SPO“) “for the protection and assistance to shippers, both international and domestic, against unreasonable fees and charges imposed by international and domestic shipping lines”.
The following are the functions of the SPO:
A Seafarer’s Heirs are Entitled to Death Benefits for Work-related Illness Even if Death Occurs After the Term of Contract
The SC ruled in Heirs of Licuanan v. Singa Ship Management, Inc. (G.R. No. 238261, June 26, 2019) (“Heirs of Licuanan v Singa Ship“) that a seafarer’s heirs are entitled to receive death benefits even if the seafarer died after the term of the employment contract.
Under a nine-month contract, Manolo Licuanan (“Licuanan“) was a seafarer assigned to work as a chef de partie on board Queen Mary 2, a ship owned by Singa Ship Management Pte. Ltd. During the term of the employment contract, Licuanan complained of difficulty in swallowing solid food, which subsequently developed into persistent dry cough. During Licuanan’s deployment at the vessel, a doctor diagnosed him with a mass in his nasopharynx. For this reason, Licuanan was medically repatriated to the Philippines and the employment contract was terminated.
In the Philippines, the employer’s doctor diagnosed Licuanan with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The employer’s doctor initially declared the illness as not work-related. Afterwards, the same doctor issued a Grade 7 disability assessment on Licuanan. Licuanan died after two years, or long after the employment contract was terminated.
Are the heirs entitled to death benefits even if the seafarer died after the term of the contract?
Under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract (“POEA SEC“), an issuance which is incorporated in the employment contracts of Filipino seafarers, a seafarer’s heirs may claim death benefits if the death (a) was caused by a work-related illness or injury, and (b) occurred during the term of the seafarer’s contract. In this case, even if Licuanan died after the term of the employment contract, the SC ruled that Licuanan’s heirs were entitled to death benefits. Some key points of the judgement include:
The issuance of the Rules of Procedure for Admiralty Cases is a welcome development as it enhances the administration of justice in admiralty cases in the Philippines. The creation of the SPO provides assurance that domestic and international shippers are protected against unreasonable fees and charges that shipping lines impose.
The ruling of the SC in Heirs of Licuanan v. Singa will benefit the heirs of seafarers who are similarly situated.
Vladi Miguel S. Lazaro
AHP Client Alert is a publication of Assegaf Hamzah & Partners. It brings an overview of selected Indonesian laws and regulations to the attention of clients but is not intended to be viewed or relied upon as legal advice. Clients should seek advice of qualified Indonesian legal practitioners with respect to the precise effect of the laws and regulations referred to in AHP Client Alert. Whilst care has been taken in the preparation of AHP Client Alert, no warranty is given as to the accuracy of the information it contains and no liability is accepted for any statement, opinion, error or omission.