MANILA - The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) said it hopes Filipino seafarers will not be banned from European vessels after the agency submitted its response to the European Commission's (EC) review of the agency and maritime schools in the country.
The EC earlier notified Marina of several deficiencies including shortcomings in seafarers' education system; inspection and evaluation of schools, simulators and on-board training among many others.
If the EC gives a final negative report on the Philippines maritime industry, this will affect the jobs of thousands of Filipino seafarers on board EU vessels. Europe may no longer recognize the certificates and permits of Filipino seafarers in the future if the problems persist.
Marina Administrator Robert Empedrad said they submitted last month the agency's strategic corrective actions to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to raise the country's maritime standards.
Empedrad disclosed this as he attended the Joint Maritime Committee meeting of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (DCCP), the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GPCCI), the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (NordCham), and the Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC).
The Marina official said he is now confident that after submitting the response, EC will give the Philippines the green light to continue working in EU vessels.
Marina is implementing several reforms to address the issues cited by the EC, Empedrad said. Among these is the moratorium on the creation of new maritime schools for 5 years so that the agency can focus on raising the standards of current schools.
Despite the rising demand for seafarers, Empedrad said they will not be adding new schools.
"But instead we will improve the standards of some schools that are not compliant with the standards," Empedrad said.
They also plan to hire more staff for Marina to help monitor and evaluate maritime schools and training centers.
Empedrad said Marina will be hiring over 1,000 employees in the next 3 years and all employees will undergo training as well to be more competitive.
Marina is also helping ease the application process for seafarers and has already automated many of its services and applications. The agency is also lowering fees for various permits and certificates, he said.
"We reduce the cost of their licenses by 50 percent, but for new applicants, it is free," he said.
Empedrad said that despite this hurdle with Europe, Filipino seafarers remain the most sought after in the world and demand continues to grow.
He added that while current Marina officials will be leaving office by June, there is a 6-year Marina Strategic Voyage Plan to address the concerns of EMSA and to continue reforms in the industry.
EMSA is expected to review the Philippines again later this year.