Gov’t urged to bolster seafarer training after EC decision

THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT should bolster its efforts to improve the training of Filipino seafarers after the European Commission’s (EC) decision to continue recognizing certificates issued by the Philippines to Filipino seafarers, a labor group said on Sunday.
“Now we want the government to work earnestly to ensure that all the deficiencies noted by the (EC) in the country’s seafarer training and education training are truly addressed,” Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa Secretary-General (SENTRO) Josua T. Mata said in a Viber message.
The EC on Friday said it acknowledged the country’s efforts and “constructive” cooperation to improve the system for training and certifying seafarers.
“Based on the answers of the Republic of the Philippines and on all available information, the Commission has concluded that the measures taken demonstrate concrete progress and improvement as regards the compliance with the requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers and Code,” the EC director-general said in a letter dated March 31 addressed to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Hernani N. Fabia.
However, the EC official noted that there were still deficiencies in the Philippines’ system of training seafarers.
Last year, the EC said that almost 50,000 Filipino seafarers working in European vessels could lose their jobs if the Philippines does not address its deficiencies.
In a statement on Sunday, Malacañang said the decision showed the country complied with international standards of training seafarers.
“With this decision, a crisis of monumental proportions has just been averted,” Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana V. Ople was quoted, saying the jobs of about 50,000 Filipino seamen have been saved.
The Palace also noted that the Philippine government has been recognized at the European Union (EU) level for its maritime education, training, and certification programs since 2002.
During a news forum on Saturday, Transportation Spokesman Joni Gesmundo said the government will continue to address deficiencies in the country’s seafarer training program.
“The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is taking steps to address deficiencies in maritime training schools to see if the education and equipment in these schools are sufficient,” he said in Filipino.
Mr. Gesmundo said the Philippines has yet to be given a deadline to meet EU seafaring standards.
The European Maritime Safety Agency raised issues regarding the country’s compliance with EU standards following an inspection in March 2020.
A year later, the EC warned the Philippine government that it would withdraw recognition of Filipino seafarers’ certificates if it did not address deficiencies in training Filipino seafarers.
“We hope this will spur the institutions to continue on this track and not let off now that this threat has been averted,” Francesco Gargiulo, chief executive officer of the International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC), said in a WhatsApp message sent to reporters.
IMEC is an international employers’ organization that operates more than 11,200 vessels that employs more than 290,000 seafarers in more than 60 countries, according to the organization’s website.
SENTRO’s Mr. Mata also said the government should also address seafarers’ concerns regarding exorbitant fees and allegations of corruption in some training institutions.
The Philippines is the world’s main source of maritime manpower, representing 25% of global seafarers. Seafarers sent $6.71 billion in remittances last year. — John Victor D. Ordoñez