Senator Joel Villanueva has warned that the European Union’s (EU) recognition for Filipino seafarers might be revoked if the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) is still not properly implemented in the country’s maritime education, training, and certification systems.
Villanueva called on the heads of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to save the Filipino seafarer sector from “drowning” due to adverse findings of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) from issues regarding the state of maritime higher education in the country.
Based on the EMSA Outlook for 2020, the Philippines leads non-EU countries with the most seafarer officers working in EU-flagged vessels, with a total of 30,615. It’s possible for the Filipino seafarers to lose their jobs if recognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates are removed.
“Let’s save this sector from drowning.”
“Our seafarers greatly contribute to our economy, especially during the pandemic. Let’s save this sector from drowning. Let’s keep our Filipino seafarers world class by following international standards,” the veteran legislator said.
According to data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, OFW cash remittances from all sea-based OFWs in the year 2021 totaled $6.545 billion or approximately P335.42 billion.
The European Union gave MARINA a March 10, 2022 deadline to respond to the reported deficiencies especially in the use of simulators and on-board training when EMSA conducted their audit in the Philippines.
MARINA’S response will be the basis for the European Commission’s judgement on whether to continue recognizing the certificates of competence of Filipino seafarers working on European-flagged vessels.
“If we cannot comply or if we receive a negative assessment, MARINA should answer to the thousands of our seafarers who are at risk of losing their jobs.”
“If we cannot comply or if we receive a negative assessment, MARINA should answer to the thousands of our seafarers who are at risk of losing their jobs. We hope it does not come to that scenario,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
The EMSA first audited the Philippines in 2006, and it was found that there are maritime training institutions in the country that were non-compliant to the STCW.
The same audit findings were reflected in EMSA assessments in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017. The latest audit for this year will be the final decision before the EU recognition is removed due to the country’s non-compliance with the STCW.
“The EMSA audit findings required a response in terms of corrective actions. Did MARINA execute the corrective actions to the satisfaction of the requirements of the STCW?” the senator said.
“The STCW is very clear on the competencies required of the graduates, certified seafarers, and the quality assurance system to which the programs were certified. Does the Philippine internal audit of STCW compliance show that we will be able to submit a satisfactory response to the latest EMSA audit and the continuing recognition of the Philippine Certificates for the various STCW levels?” he added.
Villanueva is also pushing for a proposed Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers or Senate Bill No. 2369, where both the MARINA and the Commission on Higher Education will work together to ensure compliance of the country’s maritime education, training, and certification to the STCW, and for DOLE to ensure the protection of the welfare of Filipino seafarers.
The proposed measure is currently on second reading in the Senate and he, as sponsor, aims to continue deliberating it on the plenary once sessions resume in May.
Meanwhile, Villanueva also called on the Department of Foreign affairs to continue looking out for the safety of Filipino seafarers whose vessels were caught in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“While the safety of our Filipino seafarers is endangered because of the conflict in Ukraine, their livelihood is also endangered with the removal of their accreditation from the EU. Let’s fight for their lives and livelihood,” he stressed.
“Tumbasan natin ang ‘kayod-marino’ ng ating Filipino seafarers sa pagsuporta sa kanila mula training at hanggang retirement. Let’s protect them before they board their ships, while at sea, and when they return to shore,” he concluded.