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Good news for 80,000 Seamen

Manila, Philippines – The Philippines is close to saving the jobs of 80,000 seamen deployed overseas with Congress approval on third and final reading of a bill making the country compliant to the 1978 International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously passed the almost identical versions of the measure on Monday and came close to averting a threat by the European Maritime Safety Agency to impose a ban in the hiring of Filipino seamen.

The EMSA called for the Philippines’ compliance to the 1978 ICSTCWS requirement by designating a sole authority with legal responsibility and international accountability for the education, training and certification of Filipino seafarers.

House Bill 719, substituted by HB 3766, was jointly filed by congressmen led by Ankla Party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo to name the Maritime Industry Authority as the single maritime regulatory agency tasked to carry out the ICSTCWS agreement of which the Philippines was a signatory.

“At present, different government agencies regulate the issuance of licenses or certificates for the human complement of the seaborne trade. A single maritime administrative agency with this mandate will effectively and efficiently regulate these matters,” said Manalo.

HB 719 also mandates Marina to ensure the examination and certification system for marine deck and engineer officers are in accordance with the requirements of STCW.

It will also guarantee that maritime education, including the curricula and training programs, is structured and delivered in accordance with the standards prescribed by STCW.

The bill, Manalo said, also directs Marina to adopt rules and regulations in accordance with the convention’s standards in governing watchkeeping, able bodied deck and engine ratings.

Authors of the measure said the bill, expected to be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, “will fortify the Philippine position as a premier provider of competent seafarers in the global maritime industry.”

The Philippines is a signatory to the International Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping 1978 Convention, and amended in Manila in 2010, which obligates the country to abide by its regulations.

EMSA found the Philippines not at par with these standards and threatened to remove the country from the White List, thus endangering the jobs of more than 80,000 Filipino Seafarers on European Vessels. House Bill 3766 addresses this situation.

Filipino seamen deployed in various parts of the world are among the biggest contributors to the national economy with P4.6 billion sent to the country in 2012.