Tag Archives: Citra Mina

Citra Mina under intensifying global scrutiny!

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Citra Mina workers on Labor Day in General Santos City May 1, 2015

Manila – The IUF Asia Pacific, the regional organization of the food workers’ international, today announced that one of the biggest fisheries companies in Japan that also imports tuna from General Santos has launched an investigation into the human rights violations of Citra Mina.

This does not auger well for the tuna industry in General Santos City. It becomes critical for the industry stakeholders that workers’ rights are upheld.

This development comes at a time that the Director General of Trade of the European Commission is also sending a trade delegation to the Philippines from 29 June to 3 July 2015 to monitor the country’s implementation of its commitments under the EU GSP Plus programme. The delegation is set to visit General Santos City and to meet with SENTRO, one of IUF’s affiliates in the Philippines that has been helping Citra Mina workers fight for their rights.

The Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission is in charge of implementing the common trade policy of the European Union.

“The potential damage to the reputation of the tuna industry in the Philippines must not be underestimated”, Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific said. “All this because Citra Mina will not reinstate workers unfairly dismissed for forming a union. It is a very big mistake that could cost the tuna industry of General Santos and ultimately the people of General Santos,” he added.

“What we need is for Citra Mina to do the right thing by reinstating the workers and recognize the union. That would set us on a firm course for a sustainable tuna industry that restores the reputation of General Santos. ” Dr. Greenfield said.

Citra Mina is the 2nd largest seafood exporter in the Philippines. It has been under increasing pressure after the IUF launched a global campaign last June 2014 in support of the call for justice for the workers of Citra Mina. The workers are being organized by SENTRO.

Belgian union activists hound Citra Mina in int’l seafood expo

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PROVING the long – or global – arm of the labor movement, Belgian trade unionists picketed the international seafood trade event in Brussels and “visited” the Philippine pavilion to protest the participation of Citra Mina’s Philfresh Corp. for its blatant disregard for the workers’ rights and welfare.

Members of the General Federation of Belgian Labor (ABVV-FGTB) demonstrated outside the expo venue, distributed leaflets, talked to Philippine fishery and agriculture representatives (BFAR and DA), and waited for Citra Mina delegates to express their dismay over the systematic violations of labor and trade union rights in Citra Mina.

“This is just the start of a global action against Citra Mina. If it would not mend its ways – reinstate the workers it illegally sacked to bust the union, pay them backwages and recognize their union, etc. – this ‘rotten apple’ could even drag the whole Philippine tuna industry down with it,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, warned.

Mata revealed that the said solidarity-protest action of the ABVV-FGTB has likely attracted the attention of the European Union (EU), which should raise a concern from the Philippine fish exporters as the country was recently given GSP or Generalized System of Preferences Plus benefits, notably tariff privileges.

But the GSP Plus requires a country to adhere to 27 international conventions, including the ILO Core Labor Standards, many of which are brazenly violated by Citra Mina, Mata noted.

Among the growing list of Citra Mina’s “crimes” are the arbitrary termination of 238 workers in 2013 for organizing a union, various threats against striking workers and union supporters, purported “disappearances” onboard fishing vessels of workers who complain of company abuses, unsafe and slave-like working conditions, blacklisting to keep workers in line, forced labor, rampant use of labor and fishing subcontracting called “cabo” system, alleged human trafficking and illegal fishing.

Citra Mina’s cabo and illegal fishing practices have in fact resulted to the most recent controversy involving this increasingly notorious firm: Its contracted out fishing boat’s 43 fishermen were abandoned in a prison facility in Indonesia after they were apprehended last August. They were freed and repatriated back to the country in late February but only after a joint campaign by SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Philippine government.

The Citra Mina Group of Companies is a top General Santos City-based fishing and fish/seafood processing company owned by the family of Joaquin T. Lu. It is also the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh brand.

The Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global is the world’s largest seafood trade fair conducted annually and attended by more than 1,700 exhibiting companies from over 75 countries. This year’s expo runs from April 21-23.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Congressional investigation puts Citra Mina in hot water; More exposes likely as the investigation continues

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Yesterday, 18 March 2015, the fighting workers of Citra Mina marked another milestone after they succeeded in forcing the company to face a congressional inquiry about what Congressman Walden Bello termed as its “criminal behavior”.

Citra Mina is now facing strong pressures not only from government agencies, but also from its fellow fishing and fish processing companies in Gensan. These companies fear of being dragged into the mess which Citra Mina itself has created.

Josua Mata, Secretary-General of Sentro, emphasized that the labor conflict could potentially undermine the country’s privileges under the EU GSP Plus that was recently approved. This privilege – mainly in the form of free tariff for fish products in the member nations of the European Union – being enjoyed by the fishing companies in Gensan will be jeopardized if they are found violating the required labor standards in the course of the ongoing congressional investigation.

No less than Gensan Councilor, Brix Tan, scion of Marfenio Tan, a tuna magnate in General Santos and a former president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing Associations and Allied Industries Inc. based in General Santos, who attended the congressional investigation had expressed alarm over the gravity of the impact of this inquiry on the entire fishing industry.

This congressional investigation could expose the evils of a long-time customary practices of labor only contracting, blacklisting, lack of required social protection for the fishing workers and the enslaving sacada system, among others, by the fishing industry in Gensan. These illegal activities are being undertaken by the fishing companies in Gensan with impunity.

Usec Rebecca Chato has already announced that DOLE is now preparing a department order to correct this unjust customary practice in the fishing industry.

The House of Representative Labor Committee held its first public hearing on the House Resolution No. 1746 “directing the Committee on Labor and Employment to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged violations of labor laws by the Citra Mina Group of Companies management that infringe on the workers right to self-organization and management’s failure to observe existing occupational health and safety standards in work place.” Rep. Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez III, both of Akbayan, filed the resolution last 4 December 2014.

The hearing succeeded in accomplishing the objective of exposing Citra Mina as a violator of the labor laws and in getting the commitment of the committee on labor to continue with the hearing sometime in May or June this year. Congressman Walden Bello, during this same hearing, described Citra Mina as a criminal corporation.

In addition, the union had managed to convince the Chair of the Labor Committee that the fishing industry’s “customary practice” of having “joint ventures” – a euphemism for the cabo system which has been outlawed by the Labor Code – needs to be investigated further.

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The hearing started at 3:00 PM with Walden Bello lambasting Citra Mina for its “criminal behavior” – its systematic violations of labor rights, labor standards and even maritime rules.

This was followed by Father Rey Ondap of General Santos City, representing the Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, who reminded the Labor Committee that “the unions are a mouthpiece for the struggle of social justice” (Laborem Exercens). And true enough, he said that the workers of Citra Mina who are trying to build their union are present in the hearing to explain a whole litany of human rights violations of Citra Mina: violation of freedom of association; violation of labor standards; rampant use of precarious work including the cabo system; slave- like condition in boats; deaths on high seas; and blacklisting.

Atty. Emil Paña, the legal counsel of the union, explained how Citra Mina systematically disguises its employee-employer relations. He used the case of Love Merben II to illustrate how Citra Mina uses dummies that act as “owners” of fishing vessels that it uses, even if such “owners” do not really have the means to run a multi-million peso enterprise.

Usec Rebecca Chato of DOLE made it perfectly clear that the DOLE maintains its position that both the fishing vessel owner and the fishing company are solidarily liable for all labor standards violations. She further explained that it is precisely why DOLE is now crafting a new DO that would develop an inter-agency approach in enforcing labor standards in fishing vessels. (Note: The drafting of this DO was initiated after we asked DOLE to investigate the deaths on high seas.)

Only 2 of the union’s 4 leaders were able to give their testimonies. Clyde Batelante, one of the 43 Citra Mina fishers we rescued from Ternate Island last February, spoke about his experiences in detention after his boat, Love Merben II, was captured by the Indonesian Navy. Jumary Arevalo, the union president, explained how Citra Mina violated their freedom to self-organization when they were illegally terminated to bust the union.

However, the chairman of the Labor Committee had pledged to allow them to give their testimonies during the next hearing.

In the next hearing, the Chair said that the boat captain of Love Merben II would be invited. The heads of MARINA and BFAR will also be invited.

The Chair also explained that in the next hearing, Rep. Raymond Mendoza of TUCP Party List will take the cudgels for the Citra Mina workers as Rep. Walden Bello has resigned as the Akbayan representative.

SENTRO brings home 43 fishermen left by Citra Mina in Indonesia; demands compensation for all the ‘abandoned’ as Congress sets to investigate Citra Mina

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43 fishermen detained in Indonesia arrive in Manila airport

 

WELCOME home and let the “fight” begin.

After almost six months of being abandoned by their employer – the giant fishing firm Citra Mina – and left to rot in a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia, the 43 fishermen are now in Manila before going back to General Santos City.

The “abandonados” arrived onboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J 760 at 5:30 a.m. today in NAIA from Jakarta bringing with them harrowing experience following the seizure of their boat Love Merben II off the coast of Indonesia for alleged illegal fishing last Aug. 26.

“Mission accomplished,” Herbert Demos, SENTRO staff who went to Indonesia as part of the rescue team, announced. “All Filipino crew of Love Merben II accounted for,” he reported.

The rescue campaign was led by the national labor center SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs DFA).

Demos arrived in Ternate Island on Feb. 20 to ensure that all 43 fishermen are issued their tickets and travel documents. What he witnessed in the island shocked him.

“I am poor, and was raised in poverty, but I cannot eat what our compatriots were eating in Ternate. The rice they ate had more rice weevils (lice) than rice grains, but they had no choice. I learned that sometimes they quarreled over food because of extreme hunger. What is painful, too, is that they were never visited by our consulate personnel in Manado,” Demos said.

SENTRO asserted that ultimately Citra Mina is to blame for all that the fishermen have gone through.

“Citra Mina should compensate all the fishermen for the whole time they were stuck in Ternate Island,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, stressed, adding that “Citra Mina should also be investigated for its alleged involvement in illegal fishing.”

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan has pushed for a congressional inquiry on Citra Mina’s alleged labor and human rights violations and its culpability in what had happened to the 43 fishermen. A hearing was set on March 18.

This morning, the repatriated fishermen are scheduled to meet with Jesus Yabes, DFA’s Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.

They are set to fly to General Santos tomorrow morning where a big welcome celebration awaits them.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa.The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations. Its Asia-Pacific regional office extended much needed help in the rescue efforts.

The 43 abandoned fisherfolk are Felix G. Ababon Jr., Reynaldo A. Ano-os, Joemer G. Ababon, Dennis A. Ave, Clayde G. Batelante, James D. Bermil, Julie A. Curay, Jonald B. Caliso, Arnel Ariel D. Cezar, Aries S. Cezar.

Marjun S. Columnas, Alvin S. Flora, Jovanie S. Flora, Warren S. Flora, Leonardo L. Flores, Marcelino E. Gumera, Eugene S. Hunan, Loreno B. Ignacio, Jhon James Q. Inantay, Adonis A. Janohan.

Cecilio S. Lerin Jr., Antonio B. Robledo, Joe Michael F. Maambong, Jomer S. Mongosera, Edsel M. Mamugay, Jerwin T. Mahinay, Carl Philip S. Maybuena, Edilito G. Maybuena, Alberto S. Pasco, Leopoldo P. Poliquit Jr.

Antonio R. Quiban Jr., Harry A. Redoble, Joey R. Robledo, Jojo S. Ricafort, Archie S. Senina, Noel S. Walog, Kevin Mark R. Saturos, Emmanuel S. Senina, Roberto C. Senina, Edimar S. Sinena, Edgar S. Sigudan, Rolando S. Sayson, and Rodel D. Toyco.

43 Filipino fisherfolk abandoned in Indonesia by Citra Mina to be rescued

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Citra Mina workers in Indonesia

 

FORTY-THREE Filipino fishermen who were abandoned by Citra Mina when their boat, Love Merben II were apprehended off the coast of Indonesia last year, will be repatriated next week after an intense “rescue campaign” led by SENTRO and IUF.

Families and co-workers of the imprisoned fishermen bemoaned that Citra Mina, who they believe financed the fishing expedition of Love Merben II, did not even lift a finger to assist the hapless workers.

Citra Mina is the giant General Santos City-based fishing firm and the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh and other brands. It is notorious for not respecting workers’ rights. Owned by the wealthy Lu family, the company started to hog the headlines when it illegally terminated 237 of its workers in August 2013 as part of its effort to bust the union.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, described the mass termination as a “brazen and illegal move to bust the fledgling union – a blatant violation of the workers’ right to organize.”

The cases against the Citra Mina management are still pending.

The SENTRO also accuses Citra Mina of perpetrating alleged “human rights violations,” including purported “disappearances” of workers who complain of company abuses.

The Love Merben II was seized by Indonesian authorities last Aug. 26 and the crew members, who were reportedly undocumented or with no IDs and passports, were brought to a detention facility in Ternate Island, Indonesia. The plight of the forsaken fishermen only surfaced when their families and friends began asking help to locate them. Some union members in Citra Mina later learned about it and requested assistance from SENTRO, to which the local union is affiliated. SENTRO, in turn, relayed the information to the international union IUF.

SENTRO and the IUF’s Asia-Pacific regional office then launched a campaign to free the Filipino fishermen, including urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to appeal to the Indonesian government for the immediate release of the fishermen.

After nearly 6 months the fishermen will finally return home to the Philippines. Their return poses the question of why Citra Mina, whose massive profits rely on fishing crews like the crew of the Love Merben II, abandoned them for half a year and failed to take any responsibility.

“This demonstrates a pattern of abuse of workers’ human rights throughout the Citra Mina supply chain from fishermen to fish processing workers,” Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, Acting Regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific, said.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Citra Mina’s Human Right Violations Exposed During the Tuna Congress

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Citra Mina workers in lie-in rally

Today, hundreds of striking Citra Mina workers trooped to the venue of the 16th Tuna Congress to dramatize their plight and to reiterate the pressing need for the erring company to address its continuing human rights violation.

Bearing “Justice for Citra Mina” banner and chanting, “because of Citra Mina, our families are hungry,” the workers conducted a die-in right outside the hall where the congress is being held.

“We find it ironic for Joaquin T. Lu to chair this year’s Tuna Congress whose theme is ‘Shared Resources, Shared Responsibility’ when his company is not even acting responsibly towards us – its workers,” Jumary Arevalo, president of the Samang United Workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies Union (UWCMGCU), said.

Joaquin T. Lu is the Chairman Emeritus of Citra Mina Group of Companies whose human rights record is now under scrutiny at the global level.

“Let’s make one thing clear, the issue in Citra Mina is the grave human rights violation it caused when it sacked me and 237 of my fellow workers in 2013 when we formed our union,” Arevalo said.

“The company’s offer to reinstate 12 of us is nothing but a cheap PR campaign. The only acceptable solution is for the company to recognize our union and to reinstate with full back wages all of us who are still interested to work,” Arevalo added

The right to self-organization is protected under the Philippine Constitution, ILO Core Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Citra Mina Group of Companies has been very artful in shifting its operations from one company to another in order to avoid formation of workers’ unions, which only proves that the company’s anti-union attitude is systematic.

“Worse, Citra Mina Group of Companies now resorts to blaming the international labor community for all its woes,” Arevalo said. “Truth is, Citra Mina is now hitting the IUF and the ITF in an attempt discredit them as they are the ones helping us expose the human rights violations of the company,” he added.

The International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) are global union federations with millions members around the world.

UWCMGCU has consistently warned that Citra Mina’s human rights violations could potentially damage not just the reputation of the company but of the entire tuna industry of the country. “Citra Mina’s uncooperative attitude is starting to be a liability of the entire industry,” Arevalo said.