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Senator eyes probe of seaman training amid risk of EU ban

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A SENATOR on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking to investigate how the government could improve maritime training and education after 50,000 Filipino seafarers in European Union (EU)-flagged vessels almost lost their jobs.

“Reputation, jobs and the welfare of the families of 400,000 Filipino seafarers around the world are at stake in this issue,” Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in Senate Resolution 279 in Filipino.

“We will face severe trouble in our economy if ship owners and operators look elsewhere for seafarers to crew their vessels. It will be very hard for our country to recover.”

The EU has repeatedly asked the Philippines to enhance compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention, warning that failure to meet requirements before the deadline could lead to Filipino seafarers being barred from working on its vessels.

This could disrupt the Philippine economy and damage the maritime industry’s reputation, Ms. Hontiveros said.

Filipino seamen sent home $6.54 billion in remittances in 2021, she said, citing the Philippine central bank.

The Transportation department on Thursday said the Philippines did not fail the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) recent audit of its compliance with standards on training programs and accreditation systems.

“We should not be alarmed by this because we did not fail the audit,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista told a news briefing last week. “I have met with many shipping and manning companies and our seafarers continue to be employed.”

The Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) had failed to ensure that all training and assessment activities were administered, conducted, monitored and evaluated as required by the seafarer convention, the EMSA said in 2020. 

After the EMSA inspection, the European Commission notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies in Filipino seafarers’ education, training and certification system.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had urged the Marina to address the deficiencies identified by the EU since 2006. “We strongly urge Marina to comply,” then Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. tweeted on Feb. 4. “The livelihood of thousands of our seafarers are at stake.”

“We have been given warnings for 16 years,” Ms. Hontiveros said. “It’s high time we summon Marina and CHEd to the Senate, so that these reforms can be acted upon. They need to show Congress that they are taking definite steps to resolve this issue.”

She also cited the need to honor the country’s commitments under the international convention. “This will also help us maintain our status in the International Maritime Organization whitelist,” she added.

“With all the sacrifices marinos make doing this dangerous job far away from their families, we also owe them up-to-date training that can save their lives and those of their passengers.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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