Aquino steps in to save 5,000 Pinoy seafarers
MANILA, Philippines – Under the “direct and personal order” of the President, the government vowed to ensure that up to 5,000 Filipino seafarers will keep their jobs in the face of a possible European Union (EU) blacklist.
Speaking to Rappler, Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator Maximo Mejia Jr said the government managed to “minimize” this risk but “obviously not eliminate it.”
Mejia said the risk involves 5,000 Filipino officers aboard EU ships. These include captains, chief mates, second mates, third mates, chief engineers, second engineers, third engineers, fourth engineers, and other “managers.”
He said the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) warned it might advise the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), to stop employing Filipino ship officers. This recommendation might come if the Philippines fails to pass international standards.
He said EMSA, which assists the European Commission on maritime concerns, became “very disappointed” when it audited the Philippines for compliance to the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention in April 2013.
EMSA inspected the Philippines again in October 2013, and became “quite happy.”
The Philippines is awaiting the results of the October audit. If the EMSA ends up dissatisfied, the agency warned this “can lead to the withdrawal of recognition” of STCW certificates.
Mejia said the European Commission “will have to decide” on the Philippines' fate by April.
If the blacklisting happens, he said the EU will not pull out affected seamen immediately. Instead, the EU will let them finish their contracts but will not renew these. In this “unfortunate event,” he said the EU will also stop hiring new ship officers from the Philippines.
EU's 'biggest concern'
Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon said an EU blacklist could leave up to 80,000 seamen jobless.
Mejia, however, clarified that the EMSA is focusing on officers and not ordinary crew such as able-bodied seamen, ordinary seamen, wipers, oilers, and those in hotel services and casinos.
He said the risk that most of the 80,000 will lose their jobs is “virtually none.” “Wala silang dapat ipangamba,” he said. (They shouldn't fear anything.)
Still, the Philippines is working to solve EMSA's “biggest concern” when it comes to the Philippines. That is for the country to have a “system that works” in identifying maritime schools that comply with the STCW, and those that don't, according to Mejia.
“They need to be confident, they need to be assured, that our system is able to identify the substandard and the compliant schools,” he said.
Drilon said he has another concern. To avert the blacklisting, he sponsored a bill that consolidates training and certification under Marina.
“At present, our seafarers have to go through the cumbersome process of undergoing training and securing certification from various government agencies. The bill seeks to consolidate all STCW functions in Marina, and in effect establish a ‘one-stop shop’ where the training and certification requirements under the STCW Convention shall be processed,” he said.
The Senate has passed the bill on second reading, Drilon said last Monday, February 3.
The Philippines supplies the biggest number of seafarers around the world, the International Labor Organization said in 2012. The ILO estimated that across the globe, one out of 5 seafarers is Filipino.
Drilon said they sent almost $5 billion back to the Philippines in 2012. – Rappler.com