NATIONAL Maritime Polytechnic (NMP), a Tacloban-based government maritime training research center, spearheaded a campaign against ambulance chasing in a hybrid symposium recently.

The symposium-themed "Karapatan: Sama-Samang Ingatan" updated seafarers with the services, programs and initiatives of maritime-related government agencies and other industry stakeholders that protect them against ambulance chasing.

This is consistent with Republic Act 10706, "An Act protecting Seafarers against Ambulance Chasing and Imposition of Excessive Fees and providing penalties thereof."

Ambulance chasers are unscrupulous individuals who offer help to get claims or benefits from employers in a wrong or fraudulent way.

In the maritime sector, seafarers who suffer from work-related injuries and illnesses are persuaded by ambulance chasers to file a case against their ship owners in exchange for exorbitant legal fees. Seafarers who have won their cases complained that up to 50 percent of the award granted by the judicial body as paid by the shipping principals went to their lawyer.

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The cases filed and won at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board have been overwhelming, and foreign shipping principals are reported to be discouraged from continuing to hire Filipino seafarers.

Mayla Macadawan, OIC executive director of NMP, said the symposium laid doable measures to fight and eradicate ambulance chasing.

"Awareness raises consciousness, leading to the actions of all concerned. With the actions, we could create plans and programs that would address the pressing problem at hand," she said.

"We cannot leave it to the seafarer alone to cease ambulance chasing. All stakeholders must work together in order to fight this pernicious problem," says Labor Undersecretary Ernesto Bitonio

The symposium was convened by the International Seafarers' Welfare Association Network, Associated Marine Officers' and Seamen's Union of the Philippines, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, National Labor Relations Commission and National Conciliation and Mediation Board, and NMP.

The symposium was attended by seafarers, representatives of the crewing agencies and shipping companies, seafarers' unions, maritime organizations, families of seafarers and convenors.