DOTr vows to save 49,000 Pinoy seafarers jobs
By EMMIE V. ABADILLA
The government is working to save the jobs of 49,000 Filipino seafarers aboard European ships and the $7 billion they send home each year, Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista stated Saturday, February 4.
In a couple if months - by April or May 2023, the European Commission (EC) will decide whether or not to recognize Philippine-issued Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).
The issue has been dragging on for the past 16 years now because the Philippines "has failed to fully address the findings and observations of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)," he explained.
"We may even have to move heaven and earth, if need be, to ensure these European standards are satisfactorily met,” according to the DOTr Secretary.
Already, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. created an inter-agency committee to take up the EC’s impending action through the EMSA.
"It's about time this decades-old issue is resolved and put to rest," Bautista underscored.
The inter-agency panel includes the Departments of Transportation, Migrant Workers, Labor, Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Higher Education apart from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), an attached agency of DOTr.
“A lot more work needs to be done even after MARINA had submitted the Philippine Response to the EMSA in March 2022," said Bautista.
"The 2022 Philippine Response supposedly gave details of the remedial actions MARINA put in place as well as the short and long-term measures it would carry out later," he elaborated
Based on that response, the European Commission will decide whether or not to withdraw its recognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates.
Given the Philippines' shortcomings, Bautista has pushed for a more comprehensive plan or a template to address the EMSA findings and related issues.
"So much is at stake here, not only jobs and much-needed remittances, but also our credibility and competence as a maritime regulator," he reiterated.
An EMSA ban will trigger a domino effect, the DOTr Secretary warned.
"The rest of the world will look down on the Philippines' seafaring industry and probably affect its dominant place in the global market," he warned.