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Web Alert: Philippines Supreme Court clarifies 120/240 days rule

01 May 2013

In January 2013 the Supreme Court in the Philippines handed down judgment in the case of Kestrel Shipping Co. Inc / Captain Amador P. Sevillion and Atlantic Manning Ltd v. Francisco D. Munar. This judgment sought to clarify the 120 /240 day rule under versions of the POEA contract issued prior to October 2010.

In October 2006 the seafarer had started to experience severe pain in the lumbar region when he assisted in lifting the ship’s anchor windlass motor. He was repatriated and placed under the care of the company-nominated doctor. After 197 days of treatment he was assessed as suffering from a disability (designated as Grade 8 under the POEA). Slightly prior to this (181 days after being signed-off the vessel) he filed a claim against his employer seeking full disability benefits. The Labor Arbiter awarded him full benefits of US$60,000 and held that the seafarer could be deemed to have been permanently unfit to work having not worked for 120 days. The Supreme Court has affirmed this decision.

The Supreme Court held that a seafarer who was unable to work for more than 120 days was to be considered permanently disabled and unfit to work unless a company doctor had stated that the seafarer required further treatment. If such notification had been given the period used to determine permanent disability was to be extended to 240 days.

It should also be noted that the above decision relates to a disability rating (under the POEA) of between Grades 2 and 14. A seafarer given a disability rating of Grade 1 is automatically deemed to be permanently unfit for work in any event, this being reserved for the most severe levels of disability.

For any pre-2010 POEA contracts Members should therefore be vigilant of the need to monitor treatment being provided to injured seafarers carefully and ensure that if additional treatment is required beyond the initial 120 day period a company doctor must clearly state the need for this, thereby extending the relevant period to 240 days.

A copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court can be found at the following web address: