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President to bring up seafarers, GSP+ in EU meet

OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY

By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Monday gave assurance that the Philippine government aims to enhance the training of Filipino seafarers after the European Union (EU) raised concerns on compliance with global standards last month, according to the presidential palace.

“We cannot leave it hanging like this,” the president was quoted telling reporters on board a plane to Brussels where he will be attending the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit on December 12-14.

Mr. Marcos is expected to hold 10 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit including with EU leaders, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel R. Espiritu said in a briefing last Friday. 

“But again, the whole (maritime) industry is working to make it happen,” Mr. Marcos added.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said various agencies, including the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Labor and Employment, and Philippine Coast Guard, were already working to address the training deficiencies.

Following an inspection conducted in 2020, the European Maritime Safety Agency said the Philippines lacked compliance in education, training and certification in the maritime industry.

The European Commission advised the Southeast Asian nation to enhance its standards and accreditation of seafarers.

“I think they’ve changed their approach now to the accreditation and I think we’ll be all right,” Mr. Marcos said.

Marina Executive Director Samuel L. Batalla did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

In 2020, the European Maritime Safety Agency said Marina and CHED had failed to ensure that all training and assessment activities were administered in line with international maritime standards.

It added about 50,000 Filipino seamen working in European vessels were at risk of losing their jobs due to the Philippines’ failure to match EU maritime training standards.

Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares last month sought to quadruple Marina’s budget to help improve its maritime standard, saying the jobs of almost 600,000 Filipino seafarers were at risk.

Filipino seafarers sent home $6.5 billion in remittances last year, according to the Philippine central bank.

In a 2021 report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said that the Philippines was the top global provider of seafarers, followed by Indonesia, China and India.

GSP+Mr. Marcos also said that he will bring up the Philippines’ participation in the EU Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which allows the duty-free entry of over 6,000 products from the country to EU member states. 

The GSP+ scheme requires the Philippines to uphold commitments to 27 international conventions on human rights, labor, good governance, and climate action.

“We’ll bring it up with the EU. I don’t think one thing should be related to the other but we’ll see,” the president said.

In February, the European Parliament approved a resolution asking the previous Philippine administration to address violence and human rights violations, putting a threat to the Philippines’ GSP+ status.

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual in October said the Philippines would seek to renew its participation in GSP+.

Mr. Marcos arrived in Belgium Monday morning, where he is also scheduled to meet with the European Union business community and hold one-on-one meetings with corporations that plan to expand in the Philippines. 

The president’s trip is expected to yield at least P6.2 billion worth of investment deals with European business executives, Mr. Espiritu said during the Dec. 9 briefing.

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