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Web alert: Supreme Court in the Philippines rules on the three day reporting requirement under the POEA standard employment contract

09 July 2013

Two separate recent decisions of the Supreme Court in the Philippines have denied compensation to seafarers who failed to comply with the three day reporting requirements under section 20(3) of the POEA standard employment contract.

Section 20(3) states: “The seafarer shall submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company designated physician within three working days upon his return except where he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as compliance”.

In the first of the cases the seafarer claimed that he had requested medical attention from the manning agents, but that these agents only referred him to the state social security system. As a result of this the seafarer apparently decided to seek treatment from his own physician. Although the seafarer primarily lost his claim on the basis that his illness was deemed not to be work related, both the National Labour Relations Commission (“NLRC”) and the Supreme Court cited the seafarers failure to comply with the strict reporting conditions under the POEA contract. There was also no evidence that the seafarer had reported his illness to the manning agents as alleged.

In the second case the seafarer suffered burn injuries to his leg and was repatriated. He reported to the manning agents nine days after his repatriation who referred him to the company doctor. Unfortunately shortly after the seafarer died of pneumonia. His widow brought a claim for death benefits alleging that the pneumonia was caused by tetanus which in turn was caused by the burn injuries. The Labor Arbiter dismissed the claim saying that there was no connection between the pneumonia and the original burn injury. This was set aside by both the NLRC and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision. The Court also held that the seafarer had failed to comply with the mandatory three day reporting requirement.

The Court stated in its judgment: “The purpose of the three day mandatory reporting requirement can easily be ascertained. Within three days from repatriation, it would be fairly manageable for the physician to identify whether the disease for which the seaman died was contracted during the term of his employment or that his working conditions increased the risk of contracting the ailment”.

These two cases show that the Supreme Court will interpret the three day reporting requirement as a mandatory obligation on the part of the seafarer. If this is not complied with a claim for contractual benefits should fail.

The two Supreme Court decisions referred to can be found here: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2012/december2012/187337.pdf and http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2012/december2012/175491.pdf