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TUCP appreciates continued European Commission recognition of Philippines Certification of Seafarers and commits to sustaining meaningful progress towards Filipino seafarers as preferred hire

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - TUCP

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) appreciates the European Commission’s decision to continue recognition of Philippine seafarers certificates in consideration of the Philippine submissions of 08 March 2022 on actions taken with respect to six deficiency areas of training and competence. The Commission has recognized the submission of the Marcos Administration as measures that demonstrate concrete progress and improvement as regards compliance with the requirements of international seafaring standards.

We believe the critical top-level intervention of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., with European shipowners in Brussels, some months back, saved the day for 50,000 Filipino seafarers who would have otherwise lost their jobs, as it convinced the Commission of the genuine sincerity of the Marcos Administration to update and upgrade training standards needed in running and operating modern cargo and cruise ships.

The Philippines is duty-bound to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) which encapsulates the minimum requirements on education, training, and certification of seafarers. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) audits countries that deploy seafarers aboard EU-flagged ships to determine whether their maritime education, training, and certification comply with the STCW. For 16 years, we have been failing EMSA audits and the patience of the Commission has reached a breaking point. If it had given us a thumbs down, the contagion effect may well have impacted the acceptance of Filipino seamen’s certificates on Japanese-flagged vessels as well as those of other nations.

Still, even with the extension given to us, the Government can no longer relax or further dribble, doing corrective actions which have been set aside by laxity or turf wars in key government agencies and a commercialized nautical education system keen to exploit student seafarers and their parents.

Now the agencies in the frontlines, namely MARINA, must reciprocate the heroic sacrifices of our seafarers and mirror the crisis leadership of President Marcos, Jr. by working triple-time to set up long-needed reforms. This is a wake-up call to MARINA, not a time to revert to “ningas cogon.” Too many jobs and lives are at stake.

“As the largest labor center in the country representing workers across different sectors nationwide, including the Associated Philippine Seafarers Union (APSU), the TUCP is proud to have closely worked with the Government and all our social partners in saving 50,000 decent jobs of Filipino seafarers aboard EU-flagged vessels. Through our joint efforts, we also averted the looming contagion effect with other ship-owning countries worldwide. But much needs to be done to sustain our meaningful progress, hence our work continues towards ultimately ensuring that Filipino seafarers remain the preferred hire in the global maritime industry,” emphasized House Deputy Speaker and TUCP President Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza.

Last year, Deputy Speaker Mendoza filed House Resolution No. 628 that calls on relevant government agencies, spearheaded by DOTr-MARINA in cooperation with DMW, CHED, DFA, and DOF, to immediately convene all stakeholders of the Philippine seafaring industry to address the issues raised by the EMSA audit.

The TUCP also actively participates in all the International Inter-Agency Advisory Committees on Curriculum Development, Training-to-Employment, and Anti-Ambulance Chasing. We will also take part in the National Multisectoral Inter-Agency Committee.

“These committees are the embodiment of our call for the Government to engage all stakeholders in institutionalizing much-needed reforms to uphold the highest standards of seafaring,” explained Deputy Speaker Mendoza.

“Our active participation and continuous engagement demonstrate our firm commitment imbued with the deepest sense of urgency to arrive at innovative solutions to maintain the Philippines’ stature as the preferred supplier of seafarers for the international maritime industry that brings in around US $ 6 billion annually in remittances. It is the bright spot of our economy that we cannot expose to further danger,” added Deputy Speaker Mendoza.

The TUCP urges the Government and all social partners to crystalize ways forward for the welfare of Filipino seafarers and the future of the Philippine seafaring industry through measures to ensure:

  1. Philippine-issued certificates of competency for seafarers remain unquestioned
  2. Filipino seafarers remain the preferred hire in the global maritime industry and a major source of dollar remittances to Filipino families
  3. MARINA, DMW, DOTr, and CHED regularly meet to maintain the international standards of training that comply with international audits such as EMSA
  4. Training programs should not be unduly burdensome financially and time-wise to Filipino seafarers
  5. Philippines’s future competitive position in the seafaring industry amid technological advancements

“Our battle call in TUCP—save jobs and save jobs—not only remains relevant but is further revitalized for the welfare of hundreds of thousands of our Filipino seafarers and their families who contribute billions of dollars to our economy as we build back better as one nation. We reiterate our call to our maritime authorities to expediently address the serious deficiencies in the six key areas identified by the European Commission towards ensuring our nation’s progressive compliance with the highest standards of seafaring. Ultimately, It is only right and just that we remain steadfast in championing the plight of our Filipino seafarers—bawat Marinong Pilipino—who showcase the Filipino brand of passion, excellence, and service, worthy of being the preferred hire in the global seafaring industry,” underscored Deputy Speaker Mendoza.

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