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Shape up to ship out

The Department of Transportation downplayed fears of potential job losses to 50,000 Filipino seafarers after the European Maritime Safety Agency (Emsa) repeatedly flagged some Philippine maritime schools for failing to comply with the provisions of the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers, giving the Philippines a final deadline this month to comply.

“There were findings and observations which the Philippine government is addressing right now. But the Filipino seafarers continued to be employed by the shipping industry worldwide,” Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said in a media briefing.

The DOTr official said they were working with the Department of Migrant Workers, the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Coast Guard to implement the standards required by Emsa.
Bautista added that he would be meeting with foreign ambassadors to assure them that the country was committed to complying with the STCW requirements, adding that he had already met with the envoys of France and Norway.

According to him, the country “did not fail the audit” of Emsa, pointing out that the Philippine maritime industry just did not comply with some standards relating to certification training of Filipino seafarers. The latest Emsa audit concluded in 2020 highlighted 23 grievances on the country’s maritime industry which included low training standards of some maritime schools, problems with onboard training for seafarers, and the lack of proper equipment in training.

Filipino seafarers are estimated to comprise more than 25 percent of the 1.5 million mariners worldwide, making them the biggest nationality bloc in the industry. They are a valuable asset for the country and its government should have kept watch of this golden goose by never giving bodies like Emsa the opportunity to flag the country’s training standards and endanger the gainful employment of over 229,000 Filipinos.

It should never have come to this point. But now that we are here, Filipino seafarers and their families can only hope that their government can shape up so they can still ship out.*

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December 2022
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