Time to ‘seriously heed’ issues raised in European Commission audit


OFFICIALS from the Executive branch and Congress hailed at the weekend the European Commission’s decision to extend EU recognition of certificates issued by the Philippines to seafarers, allowing some 50,000 of the latter to keep boarding EU-flagged ships. However, they conceded the need to “seriously heed” the reminder in the notice, to keep addressing six deficiencies earlier flagged in an EC audit.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) noted in a statement that “the extension comes with conditions for the PH to meet and comply with its commitments to improve the process and implementation of the  Philippine maritime education, training and certification [METC] system.”

DFA added: “The Philippines has viewed the inspections, verifications and evaluations conducted by the European Commission, through the European Maritime Safety Agency [EMSA], constructively, and is firm in its commitment to meet the same, mindful that these are in the interest of ensuring the best possible conditions for Philippine seafarers looking to serve on EU flag vessels.”

The Philippines, said DFA, “appreciates the continued engagement and the offer of technical assistance from the European Commission in helping ensure that the challenges in the implementation of the STCW Convention 1978, as amended, can be overcome.”

For her part, Sen. Grace Poe said EU’s recognition of certificates for Filipino seafarers “is a crucial decision that will keep them onboard ships” at a “turbulent period of the global economy.”

However, she stressed that since “Filipino seafarers remain the preferred choice in the EU region, we should embark on continuous skills training to increase the viability of our workers.”

The government and private sector should step up efforts to use the period allowed by the EU to boost training and seriously heed the issues raised by the European Maritime Safety Agency, Poe added.

Some 50,000 Filipino seafarers employed by European-flagged vessels got a reprieve after the EC decided to continue recognizing their safety certifications issued by Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), which was notified of the decision late Friday.

The EC Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport said the Philippine government showed “serious efforts to comply with the
requirements” of the international standards on basic safety training courses.

The Philippines is the largest maritime labor supplier in the world, with 345,000 deployed in 2022. They remitted around US$6.7 billion or around P341 billion in 2022.

Of these seafarers, around 50,000 are masters, officers and crew on board cargo ships, cruise ships, yachts and other vessels of Greece, Norway, Germany and Malta. Industry estimates that one in every five foreign seafarers on EU-flagged vessels is a Filipino.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) carried out an inspection of the maritime education, training and certification system of the Philippines for its seafarers between February 24 to March 12, 2020.

According to its December 20, 2021 audit report, EMSA found “deficiencies” in the compliance of the Philippines with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping(STCW) Convention.

The chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs said the European Commission’s decision to continue recognizing the certificates for Filipino seafarers “also reflects the efforts of the Philippine government in ensuring compliance of the country’s maritime education and training with the standards set by the International Maritime Organization [IMO].”

Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, in a statement said the decision of the European Commission is a testament to the competence and efficiency of our seafarers and the quality of training and education they have received. 

Image credits: Nonie Reyes