The House committee on overseas workers affairs learned during a hearing on October 27 that if the Philippines continues to fail its compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention), both the deployment of new Filipino seafarers to European Union ships and the jobs of about 50,000 other Filipinos currently employed on EU-flagged vessels could be at risk.
The committee was informed that the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (Emsa) final assessment of the nation’s compliance with STCW is scheduled for November. If the EU panel determines that the issues it raised years ago have not been resolved, it may decide not to recognize the qualifications of Filipino seafarers to serve as officers on European vessels.
If the Emsa issues a negative finding on the Philippines’ compliance next month, the deployment of Filipino seafarers to Europe will be halted automatically. Those seafarers currently working on ships flying the EU flag won’t lose their jobs immediately, but they will only be permitted to serve as captains, first mates, and second mates until their STCW certificates expire.
The Philippines hasn’t been able to pass the Emsa audit since 2006, or for more than a decade, asserts Jerome Pampolina, Assistant Secretary for sea-based services at the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), adding that he was told this would be the last year for the Philippines to adopt corrective measures toward full compliance.
“If the recognition is withdrawn, the Philippines will undergo a new round of evaluation and must satisfactorily comply with the findings before the recognition is restored. Meantime, Filipino officers and ratings (the general term for skilled seafarers) will no longer be qualified to be deployed in (EU-flagged) vessels that require such certifications (and) existing certifications will be honored until their expiration,” said Asec. Pamplona.
Pampolina stated that the amount of remittances sent home by Filipino seafarers, which amounts to $6.38 billion (P376.12 billion) annually, “this amount of remittances is also at risk should the country fail to meet the minimum global standards of maritime education, training and certification.”
The European Union requested a formal, written response from the Philippine government in February of this year, asking it to provide “concrete proof of the actions previously implemented by the Philippine authorities to guarantee compliance with the country’s responsibilities under the STCW Convention.”
Following the inspection in 2020, the European Union had informed the Philippines of a number of shortcomings in the education, certification, and training of Philippine seafarers.