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Congress should support raising seafarer training standards.

As the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is preparing to conduct an audit of the country’s compliance with international training standards this month, a leader of the House of Representatives on Thursday assured European Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron of Congress’ full support for raising the training standards for Filipino seafarers.

Joey Salceda, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, declared that Congress would support the EMSA audit to determine whether the nation complies with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and to maintain logistics security during “this turbulent period” for the world economy.

In a letter to the European ambassador, Salceda stated that as a senior member of the Congressional leadership team, he was “interested in working with the European Union’s delegation to the Philippines to forward the interests of both Filipino seafarers and European shipping and logistics on areas, such as Filipino seafarer training.”

He claimed that the 50,000 Filipino sailors employed in Europe receive among the highest wages and that they risk losing their employment if the Philippines fails the EMSA audit in November.

Salceda stated, “I am aware that the conclusions of the European Maritime Safety Agency over the last years have jeopardized the work eligibility of some 50,000 Filipino seafarers, many of whom are my constituents.

He also pledged to support the EU delegation’s local efforts to assist Philippine maritime schools in enhancing their training.

“For the previous few months, the European marine industry has largely relied on Filipino sailors, who are Westernized culturally. They don’t have many cultural issues with us, according to Salceda. However, we must improve our training and pay close attention to EMSA’s concerns. Our failure to pass their audits dates back at least 16 years.

He asserted that maintaining the maritime jobs obtained through EU hiring is essential while the nation works to recover from what he refers to as “a fluid domestic jobs scenario” and to secure its foreign exchange reserves.

Salceda claimed that while the EU is unlikely to forbid Filipino seamen from sailing under their flags, certain businesses will “undoubtedly” take the EMSA findings seriously this year.

And if the results are too discouraging, some of them would be reluctant, if not outright unwilling, to hire Filipinos. Jobs in the sector will undoubtedly suffer as a result, he warned.

Sandro Gonzalez, a member of the MARINO Party’s list and the House Deputy Majority Leader, praised President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for ordering the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to work with its various agencies to develop an implementation strategy that will address the EMSA’s findings about the Philippines’ shortcomings.

“At this time, the Filipino maritime industry requires the government’s full assistance to guarantee their continued employment aboard EU-flagged vessels. The administration must place a high focus on maintaining our adherence to international marine rules, Gonzalez added.

He added that the false information that has been spreading about the removal of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as an implementing agency should serve as a reminder to confirm the information and make sure that it only comes from dependable and direct sources, particularly with important matters like this.

“Our uttermost confidence in the Philippine government, led by President Marcos, and through the Department of Transportation, especially MARINA, continues in addressing the issues mentioned in the EMSA study,” he continued.

The lack of training equipment and inconsistent teaching and assessment practices are among the 23 grievances that the EMSA identified, according to Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Assistant Secretary Jerome Pampolina, who also stated that this is the Philippines’ final year to address these issues with the nation’s seafarers’ education, training, and certification system.

Since 2006, or for more than ten years, the nation has been unable to pass the EMSA Audit. The Philippines has one more year to take corrective action in order to fully comply, he said.

Pampolina issued a warning that if the acceptance of Philippine-issued STCW certificates was withdrawn, the nation would be subject to a fresh round of assessment and would need to successfully respond to the results before acceptance was reinstated.

Accordingly, Filipino officers and ratings won’t be able to be assigned to ships that travel through the European Union and need these qualifications.

If Philippine-issued STCW certificates are no longer recognized, Filipino seafarers may lose their jobs. But this is only the immediate result. Worldwide nations that own ships might become infected, he said.

The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) cash remittances from all sea-based OFWs over a five-year period averaged USD6.37 billion, according to figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that he also quoted.

According to Pampolina, if the nation doesn’t fulfill the basic international standards for maritime education, training, and certification, this amount of remittances could also be at risk.

Additionally, he foresaw employment losses in the maritime, manning, and other related areas.

The DMW declared earlier this week that President Marcos had given it and other authorities the responsibility of ensuring that the nation complies with the EMSA’s recommendations.

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