Friday, May 9, 2014

DFA Obtains European Reprieve for Filipino Seafarers

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that the European Commission Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) acted favorably on the DFA’s request for additional time to allow the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) of the Philippines to 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). 

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 82,000 Filipino seafarers working on board European Union (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 F. 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 No. 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 STCW standards.

With the decision adopted by COSS on April 23 not to pass final judgment on the implementation of the STCW Convention by the Philippines, the personal efforts of Secretary Del Rosario and the country’s envoys posted in European capitals obtained the requested reprieve which will now allow MARINA to 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 stressed that the DFA takes seriously its mandate to provide support and protection to Filipino migrant workers and their families, both those working on land and at sea. She said this is the reason why Secretary Del Rosario and our envoys in European capitals did not hesitate to vigorously solicit support from European governments to give the Philippines the additional time it needs to implement the reforms in the country’s maritime educational system. She added that the 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.

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