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Locsin urges government agencies to improve standards of maritime HEIs, save Filipino seafarers’ jobs

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is urging relevant government agencies to address recurring “negative” findings of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) on the regulation of maritime higher educational institutions (HEI) in the country.

In December last year, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., during a Crew Connect 2020 conference, said local maritime schools were not up to European standards.

The EMSA saw the deficiencies in the country’s maritime education and Locsin was made aware of the situation by a European ambassador.

Locsin warned that Filipino seafarers may be at risk of losing their jobs if local schools are unable to comply with such stringent standards.

The country’s highest envoy made the warning during the celebration of the Day of the Seafarer on Friday, June 25, 2021, an annual commemoration dedicated to seafarers for their invaluable contribution to global trade and the world economy.

Locsin said the Philippines should comply with the EMSA safety audit “and improve the country’s maritime education, training and certification system of Filipino seafarers.”

The European Union has long recognized the Philippines as an important maritime nation whose many seafarers on European vessels are much appreciated, Locsin said.

Last year, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) submitted the remaining initiatives being pursued by the Philippines to address the findings noted in the European Commission Assessment Report on the country’s maritime education, training and certification system conducted in March.

Locsin said adopting the EMSA standard for the Philippines’s more than 337,000 seafarers “is logical, good policy and just plain right and decent for us in government to ensure a good future for them.”

“Let us not fail them; because that is like throwing them overboard with a makeshift anchor tied to their ankles,” he said.

The country’s top diplomat said the future of a seafarer begins with the right training and proper schooling. “We have been told again and again, indeed for 16 years that many of our schools are failing to provide this. And so far, we’ve come up only with excuses.”

Because of this, Locsin said, “close to 30,000 marine officers are in danger of losing their jobs on board European-registered vessels,” adding that mariners have one of the best-paying job in the entire world.

“Under my watch, we will go on condemning bad maritime schools that put our better ones in such a bad light; and we call on those tasked with the job to just do it,” Locsin vowed.

According to Locsin, the seafaring fame of the Filipino has been recognized since pre-Spanish times, “which led the first Spanish Cardinal in Manila to tell the King of Spain of that for which the Filipino stands out: fighting and sailing.”

“Seafaring is always difficult and frequently life-threatening; not just from storms at sea but from the deplorable working conditions in which it is undertaken with the notable exceptions of European and advanced country’s vessels like Japan’s. It has been worse in this pandemic,” Locsin noted.

He said the pandemic has not been kind to anyone, “but it has been especially harsh to seafarers.”

“Many have lost their jobs. Many are unable to come home, stranded at sea with limited provisions due to quarantine restrictions on disembarkation and embarkation,”  Locsin said.

He revealed that some have been stranded on board “for as long as a year, in ports that will not allow them to disembark,” and added, “this tragic situation has taken a toll on their well-being, mental health and on their families. Some have taken their own lives.”

Locsin is referring to the 13 Filipino crewmen of the bulk carrier MV Angelic Power who have been stranded in China for one year and five months now. The seamen have gone on social-media video begging for assistance to help them leave the ship and go home to the Philippines.

The vessel carrying the Filipino crew came from Indonesia and reached Guangzhou’s port last year. But closure of many international ports brought about by the pandemic and legal issues hounding their company have delayed the seafarers’ homecoming.

Seafarer Leonardo Lansang told CNN Philippines that they were detained by  Guangzhou Maritime Court on December 11, 2020 due to an “economic dispute” between the cargo receiver Guangzhou South China Coal Trade Center Co and the ship’s owners Angeliki Dynamic Investment Corp.

Locsin added their passports were taken, leaving them virtual “hostages” and abandoned by the owner of the vessel.

Locsin said “this is unacceptable and outrageous. The DFA has led the charge in bringing back home our seafarers and fighting for their human right to crew change.”

According to the former newspaper and magazine publisher, “our government has established Green Lanes to facilitate movement of seafarers within our borders and have also prioritized them in the vaccine program—as we should—as frontline workers.”

“Every boat is a petri dish of deadly disease,” he warned.

“Together with the International Maritime Organization we are pushing for a Fair Future for Seafarers,” Locsin said.

Locsin said the DFA will go on fighting for working conditions for seafarers in other vessels; “and we will continue pressing loudly for the right to repatriation and crew change.”

He said the DFA would always be there for the men and women who buoyed up our economy when it was listing, and who left family to find a better future for them.

“A meaningful Day of the Seafarer to all,” he greeted them.

Image courtesy of DFA-ASEAN

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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