DOTr: PH should not be alarmed, gov't working to comply with EU standards for seafarers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 4) — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the country should not be alarmed by the findings of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) as it continuously works on complying with the latter's standards for Filipino seafarers.

"It's important that we should not be alarmed by this because we did not fail the audit," DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said in a statement Friday.

Last month, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega warned that 50,000 Filipino seafarers currently deployed in the European Union (EU) will be at risk of losing their jobs if the Philippines' fails to comply with EMSA's standards.

EMSA noted in its 2020 audit that it found 13 shortcomings and 23 grievances, including lack of training equipment and inconsistencies in teaching and assessment.

Bautista said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. ordered the creation of a body to ensure that the Philippines is able to comply with the evaluation of EMSA and pass the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The members of the body - DOTr, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Commission on Higher Education, Department of Foreign Affairs and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) - are closely working together to comply with the directive, Bautista added.

The Philippines is one of the world's biggest suppliers of sea-based workers, with Filipinos at one point comprising over 25% of mariners worldwide.

No reason to worry

MARINA, meanwhile, allayed concerns of Filipino seafarers, saying they can continue to work as the European Commission continues to recognize their certificates.

"Those Filipino seafarers, marine officers who are currently working on board the European-flagged vessels can continuously work [in] EU-flagged vessels," Sam Batalla, officer-in-charge and Executive Director of MARINA's Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping Office, told CNN Philippines' News Night.

Even those who have yet to board the ships will still be accepted as long as they comply with the requirements, he added.

The DOTr said separately that Filipino seafarers are still being deployed to the EU, and that European shipping companies "still prefer to hire Filipino seafarers."

Meetings with stakeholders

DMW Secretary Susan Ople also said in a Friday briefing that she was told by Bautista that discussions with ship owners and diplomatic briefings are ongoing, as other agencies involved are also ready to provide support.

She said the private sector has recommended contingency measures to Bautista in case the Philippines fails to comply with EMSA's standards. However, Ople believes the DOTr and MARINA have made progress in their efforts to meet EMSA's requirements.

Asked if the curriculum for seafarers will be overhauled, Ople said they will defer to the DOTr and MARINA.

Batalla, for his part, said MARINA hopes to further improve the programs of maritime schools.