EU Grants MARINA More Time to Meet Global Standards on Seafarer Education

MANILA – The European Union has given the Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) more time to adjust to its new organizational structure and implement structural and policy changes to meet regulatory standards set by the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, as amended (STCW Convention), the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

The decision positively affects about 82,000 Filipino seafarers who work on board EU-flagged vessels.

In a news release, the DFA said the European Commission Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) granted its request for more time in a meeting of DGMOVE’s Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) held in Brussels last April 23.

The Committee agreed to send another audit team to the Philippines from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to look into the measures which the Philippine maritime authorities will be implementing to ensure compliance with STCW standards.

The EMSA audit team intends to arrive after the start of the new school year in September/October in order to monitor the delivery of maritime education by the country’s higher education and training institutions.

EMSA has been sending audit teams to the Philippines since 2006 in order to ensure that the Filipino seafarers on EU-flagged vessels are qualified and competent. The last EMSA audit took place in October 2013 and its report was submitted to DGMOVE early this year.

COSS was expected to render a verdict on the status of the Philippine compliance with the STCW Convention at its April 23 meeting.

Noting that the implementation by MARINA of its new structural and policy changes have not been fully completed, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario instructed all Philippine ambassadors posted in EU countries to launch a sustained and broad-based diplomatic offensive to stave off European withdrawal of recognition of Philippine STCW compliance certificates issued to Filipino seafarers.

The Philippine envoys were directed to earnestly seek support from their respective host governments to give the Philippines an additional period within which to fully implement Republic Act 10635 which consolidates all compliance responsibilities to the STCW Convention with MARINA.

The new law, principally authored by Senate President Franklin Drilon in the Senate and ANGKLA Partylist Representative Jesulito Manalo in the House of Representatives, was signed by President Benigno Aquino III only last 13 March 2014, or after the EMSA audit last October.

Secretary Del Rosario made a similar appeal to the European ambassadors in Manila when he invited them to a meeting where they were informed of the focus and commitment of the Philippine government to satisfy.

With the decision adopted by COSS on April 23 not to pass final judgment on the implementation of the STCW Convention by the Philippines, MARINA can now concentrate on its consolidation of STCW-related functions under R.A. No. 10635.

In her remarks before a recently concluded Maritime Summit hosted by Representative Manalo last April 25, DFA Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson said DFA will now focus on providing support to MARINA as it rectifies deficiencies in the country’s maritime education system before the next EMSA audit.