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VILLANUEVA HITS 5-YEAR BAN ON NEW MARITIME SCHOOLS

Senator Joel Villanueva asked the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to focus on ensuring the quality of our maritime graduates for better employability and not on curtailing access to maritime schools, as the agency proposed a 5-year moratorium on new maritime schools.

“Access to education and skills training is as important as raising the quality of education for our maritime schools. We are denying Filipinos access to quality-assured education and training opportunities with this 5-year ban,” Villanueva said.

“Adding more new maritime schools can be considered as opportunities.”

The veteran legislator stressed that adding more new maritime schools can be considered as opportunities for superior maritime institutions compliant with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping For Seafarers and global quality assurance standards.

The new maritime education and training providers can be accredited according to the program standards and guidelines which, supervised properly, can easily pass any international compliance audit like the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).

“The bigger issue is why are there existing maritime institutions that are still in the accredited list that do not pass the audit of foreign accrediting agencies?” asked the seasoned lawmaker.

Instead of a complete ban, the chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development proposed that MARINA should ensure that the standards of both existing and new maritime schools comply with the global standards.

“This needs more study and consultation with concerned stakeholders, so we can provide grounds for the next administration to consider and implement,” the reelectionist senator said.

Villanueva said he aims to strengthen maritime education and training in the country to address the noted deficiencies in a recent audit of the EMSA.

These findings include shortcomings in seafarers’ education system, lack of inspection and evaluation of schools, lack of simulators, and poor on-board training.

A final negative report by the European Commission (EC) on the Philippine maritime education system would likely displace thousands of Filipino seafarers serving on European vessels, as the EU may stop recognizing certificates and permits issued to Filipino seamen from a negative EC report.

“This will be a big blow to the Philippine reputation as a major supplier of maritime officers and seafarers.”

“This will be a big blow to the Philippine reputation as a major supplier of maritime officers and seafarers, and also to the lives and livelihood of Filipino families who are dependent on continuing recognition of the excellence of the Philippine maritime education and training,” he stressed.

The Marina reportedly said they submitted April the agency’s strategic corrective actions to the EMSA to raise the country’s maritime education standards.

Aside from the 5-year ban on creating new maritime schools, Marina also said they are implementing several reforms to address issues cited by EMSA.

This includes hiring more staff to help monitor and evaluate schools and training centers for seafarers; automating the agency’s services and applications; and lowering fees for permits and certificates.

Villanueva emphasized the need to pass the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers (Senate Bill No. 2369) into law, as the bill’s main proponent.

The measure requires MARINA and the Commission on Higher Education to work together to ensure compliance of the country’s maritime schools with global standards, and protect the rights of seafarers in accordance with the country’s international covenants.

The bill is currently pending second reading, and he urged the Senate to support the immediate passage of the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers when the session resumes in May after the elections.

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