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The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport has extended its recognition of the Philippine government’s maritime education, training and certification for seafarers after taking note of the country’s actions in addressing some of its serious deficiencies.
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said the European Commission’s decision is a testimony to the leadership and political will of President Ferdinand R. Marcos in ensuring the country’s compliance with STCW standards.
“With this decision, a crisis of monumental proportions has just been averted,” Ople said, adding that roughly 50,000 jobs of Filipino masters and officers aboard European vessels have been saved in light of the decision.
In a letter received on March 31, Director-General Henrik Hololei told Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) administrator Hernani Fabia that the EU Commission has assessed the actions taken by the Philippine government to address these deficiencies in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) and Code.
“Based on the answers of the Republic of the Philippines and on all available information, the Commission has concluded that the measures taken demonstrate concrete progress and improvement as regards the compliance with the requirements of the STCW Convention,” Hololei noted.
“The outcome of the analysis allows the EU to extend the recognition of the Republic of Philippines STCW system. Nevertheless, the services of the European Commission consider that there are still issues to be addressed,” the EU official said as he also noted that they expect the Philippine government to continue improving in other areas of the system.
Hololei also lauded the country’s officials “ for their efforts to comply with the STCW requirements and for the excellent cooperation we have had in this respect.”
Ople, who is current in Geneva, thanked the European Commission (EC) for recognizing the significant efforts being made by the Marcos administration to comply with the requirements under the International Convention on STCW for seafarers.
“We look forward to the start of technical cooperation between the Philippines and EC in professionalizing and further improving the skills of Filipino seafarers,” the DMW chief said.
Last December, President Marcos met with the European shipowners in Brussels which led to the creation of the International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA) that now offers technical advice to the Department of Migrant Workers on seafarers’ concerns.
The President also met with EU President Ursula von der Leyen in the margins of the EU-ASEAN Summit to discuss technical cooperation to improve the education, training and certification system for Filipino seafarers. The President also issued several directives to the DMW, the Department of Transportation (DoTr,) MARINA and the Commission for Higher Education (CHED) on STCW compliance.
“The President has been consistent and relentless in taking up the cudgels for our Filipino seafarers,” the DMW Secretary said.
Ople also commended the leadership of DoTr Secretary Jaime Bautista who has been working hard to accelerate reforms in the maritime sector and to present the country’s roadmap to the diplomatic and business community.
Since 2002, the Philippine government has been enjoying the recognition at EU level in relation to its maritime education, training and certification system for seafarers, in line with the STCW Convention.
In 2022, the EU came out with the Directive that has provided a European system of recognition of seafarers’ certificates issued by non-EU countries based on the standards set by the STCW Convention.
Under the directive, member states of the European Union may recognize, pursuant to Regulation I/10 of the STCW Convention, only those certificates that have been issued by recognized non-EU countries.
It also provides that the third countries that have been recognized are being reassessed by the European Commission, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), on a regular basis to verify that they continue to comply with the requirements of the STCW Convention.
Between February 24 and March 12, 2020, the EMSA, on behalf of the EU Commission, carried out an inspection of the maritime education, training and certification system of the Philippines.
The European Commission after concluding the reassessment of the Philippines’ maritime education, training and certification system decided to initiate the withdrawal procedure.
The Commission notified MARINA of its decision on December 20, 2021.
Based on the Commission’s assessment, the EU has identified a number of serious deficiencies in the Philippines’ STCW system in areas of monitoring, supervision and evaluation of training and assessment; examination and assessment of competence; program and course design and approval; availability and use of training facilities and simulators; on-board training; and issue, revalidation and registration of certificates and endorsements.
The Philippines responded to this assessment on March 8, 2022, including details of the actions taken, referring to the six key areas.