December 2, 2022

THE Philippines did not fail in the recent audit conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) on the country’s training program and accreditation system for seafarers, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista clarified on Thursday.

He said Filipino seafarers continue to be hired by international shipping agencies including those based in EU member states.

Bautista said the audit for the country’s compliance with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) was done in 2020 by EMSA, the agency charged with reducing the risk of maritime accidents, marine pollution from ships and the loss of human lives at sea by helping to enforce the pertinent European Union legislation.

Failure to comply with EMSA’s requirements could jeopardize the jobs of an estimated 50,000 Filipino seafarers employed by European shipping companies.

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There are more than 600,000 Filipino seamen working worldwide.

Bautista said the EMSA raised 23 grievances, including the failure of certain maritime schools to comply with standards for certification, training and watchlisting.

He said the government replied to the EMSA last March.

“We are now just waiting for their reply,” Bautista said during a virtual press briefing.

Since then, the government has been continuously coordinating with the EMSA by providing the agency additional information “on the way forward,” he said.

“It is important to tell you that we should not be alarmed by this because the Philippines did not fail the EMSA audit. There were findings, there were observations but the government, through the Department of Transportation (DoTr), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Philippine Coast Guard, are working together to address all these issues,” Bautista said.

The EMSA regularly conducts audits on all countries that send seafarers to European states. “The directive of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is to specifically address the EMSA findings so we will be compliant and prevent the blacklisting of Filipino seafarers,” he said.

Bautista said the government, through CHEd, has started to review the curriculum of maritime schools.

“There were also instances when certain schools that failed to meet the standards set by the government were ordered closed,” Bautista added.

He recently met with shipping and manning companies, and they informed him that Filipino seafarers continue to be employed by different foreign shipping companies.

He said he was also told by different EU ambassadors to the Philippines that European shipping companies still prefer to hire Filipinos.

“I gave them the assurance that we will maintain our membership with the International Maritime Organization (IMO),” Bautista said.

The IMO also audits the training programs and accreditation system for seafarers that different countries implement.

The last time the IMO did an audit on the Philippines was April.

Bautista said the Marina has answered the questions raised by the IMO during its assessment.

The IMO is scheduled to meet with the Philippine government again before the end of the year.

Bautista denied reports that the President has removed from the Marina the task of overseeing maritime training and accreditation.