Merchant marine sources have warned that 60,000 jobs for Filipino seafarers had been lost already, dropping the total number employed each year below 400,000.
With this bleak scenario, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued Executive Order (EO) 63 to ensure the country’s strict compliance with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW).
Duterte issued the order even as only 5,000 of the 25,000 graduates of maritime courses are able to land jobs in international and local shipping companies, a roundtable discussion on the state of Filipino seafarers’ deployment revealed.
The EO will strengthen the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) by establishing systems and mechanisms “for the promotion and protection of the well-being of the seafarers.”
Taking care of seafarers will motivate them to be professional and competitive. The Philippines is next only to China in the number of seafarers deployed each year.
MARINA will be coordinating with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the evaluation and approval of maritime education programs which would require compliance with the STCW Convention.
Under the EO, MARINA and CHED shall also evaluate and inspect all maritime higher education institutions in the country.
The maritime authority will also consult with the Department of Health in establishing the standards for the medical fitness of seafarers and the procedures for the issuance of medical certificates.
The EO also mandates MARINA, along with the Philippine Coast Guard, to ensure that seafarers on board ships within Philippine territory are “certified in accordance with STCW Convention.”
The Philippines is a party to the STCW Convention which provides the internationally agreed and accepted standards governing seafarers.
During the Aquino administration, the European Union threatened to blacklist Filipino seafarers because of the operation of fly-by-night maritime institutions.