Supreme Court rules that acute promyelocytic leukemia is a compensable illness

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc.,  21 November 2017 (Issue 2017/20)

Supreme Court rules that acute promyelocytic leukemia is a compensable illness
Seafarer was engaged as Ordinary Seaman on-board the vessel.  During employment, the seaman fell ill and was confined in a hospital in Indonesia where he was initially diagnosed with "pancytopenia suspect aplastic anemia." The seafarer was then repatriated for further treatment.  Upon repatriation, the seafarer was referred by the company to their designated doctors for examination and treatment.  With the company-designated physicians, the seafarer was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. The company-designated doctors opined that seafarer’s leukemia was not work-related.
The seafarer sought a second opinion from his chosen doctor who certified that his leukemia was work-related.  After his disability claims were refused, the seafarer filed a complaint against the company before the Labor Arbiter.
The Labor Arbiter found that seafarer’s leukemia was work-related and that it had permanently incapacitated him to work as a seafarer.  Thus, an award of disability benefits was issued to the seafarer. Such ruling was affirmed by the NLRC and the Court of Appeals.
Upon petition before the Supreme Court, it was sustained that the illness of the seafarer should be considered work-related and compensable.
The Court noted that in the applicable POEA Contract, “acute myeloid leukemia” is listed as an occupational disease if it is secondary to prolonged benzene exposure.  The Court further expounded that benzene is a widely used chemical and is mainly used as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
The functions of the seafarer as an Ordinary Seaman, among others, included removing rust accumulations and refinishing affected areas of the ship with chemicals and paint to retard the oxidation process. This meant that he was frequently exposed to harmful chemicals and cleaning aids which may have contained benzene.  Furthermore, the vessel transported chemicals, which could have also contributed to seafarer’s leukemia.
The seafarer likewise presented the results of his Molecular Cytogenetic Report, which showed that his leukemia was not genetic in nature which would debunk the opinion of the company-designated doctors that the illness was genetic in origin and not work-related.
The Court again stressed that when it comes to compensability of illnesses, it is not necessary that the nature of the employment is the sole reason for the seafarer's illness.  It is sufficient that there is a reasonable linkage between the disease suffered by the employee and his work to lead a rational mind to conclude that his work may have contributed to the establishment or, at the very least, aggravation of any pre-existing condition he might have had.  As the seafarer was able to satisfy the conditions under the POEA Contract to establish a reasonable linkage between his job as an Ordinary Seaman and his leukemia, disability benefits was awarded to him.
Grieg Philippines, Inc., Grieg Shipping Group AS et al. vs. Michael John Gonzales, G.R. No. 228296, July 26, 2017, Second Division, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, ponente (Attys. Herbert Tria and David Valencia of Del Rosario & Del Rosario handled for vessels interests)
Firm News
Managing partner Arturo del Rosario led the Philippine delegations in two recently concluded Intellectual Property (IP) Conventions.  As President of the Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines (IPAP), Arturo with 12 Philippine delegates, participated in the AIPPI 2017 Sydney World Congress on 13 - 17 October 2017.  
The International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property, generally known under the abbreviated name AIPPI, is the world's leading international organization dedicated to the development and improvement of legal regimes for the protection of intellectual property (IP).
Likewise, Arturo led a total of 37 Philippine delegates to the 67th Annual Council Meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand, of the Asian Patent Attorneys Association (APAA) from 04 -07 November 2017.  APAA is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting and enhancing intellectual property protection in the Asian region (including Australia and New Zealand).

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DelRosarioLaw welcomes Ruben Jose G. Del Rosario Jr., as a Junior Associate of the firm. He is a 2011 Bachelor of Science in Management, Major in Legal Management graduate of Ateneo de Manila and a 2017 Bachelor of Laws graduate of San Beda College - Alabang.


Partner Charles Dela Cruz spoke on "Nuances of Retirement Law in the Philippines" at the 2nd HR Compliance Conference held on September 25-26, 2018 at SMX Aura Convention in Bonifacio Global City.


Partners Charles Dela Cruz and Herbert Tria spoke on “Current Crew Claims Handling Issues related to the Data Privacy Act” at the 7th Annual Magsaysay Shipping and Logistics’ Marine Insurance Seminar held on 21 September 2018 at Robert Hall, Times Plaza Building, Manila.


DelRosarioLaw Senior Partner Charles Jay Dela Cruz was elected as member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) for the term 2018-2019.



  • IRR Seafarer's Protection Act
  • Seafarers Protection Act
  • ORDINANCE No. 28 Series of 2015 Zambales, Philippines
  • NLRC MEMO on 3rd Doctor
  • NLRC Rules of Procedure 2011
  • Standard Terms and Conditions of Del Rosario Law
  • POEA SEC - 2010 Amendments
  • POEA Memorandum Circular No. 10 Series of 2010
  • Governing Board Resolution No. 09 Series of 2010

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