(Contributed photo)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday strongly urged the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to make necessary reforms to address the deficiencies identified by the European Union in the country's seafarers’ education, training, and certification system.

"MARINA is responsible for the implementation of the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) Convention. The EU has now given MARINA until March 10, 2022, to address deficiencies identified by EU since 2006," the DFA said in a statement.

"We strongly urge MARINA to comply. The livelihoods of thousands of our seafarers are at stake," it added.

The European Commission (EC) last December has notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies, including serious ones, in its seafarers’ education system, which fails to guarantee that the requirements of the STCW Convention are met.

The EU Delegation in Manila said inconsistencies were found in the monitoring of inspections and evaluations of the schools. These include "concerning findings" on simulators and on-board training, among others.

"The Philippine authorities received the European Commission notification in the second half of December 2021. Under the applicable rules, the Philippines has to provide its formal reply to the European Commission within two months, and not later than March 10, 2022," the EU said in a statement.

The EC, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), will then assess the reply of the Philippines and determine a course of action.

'Barred on EU-flagged vessels'

In case of a negative assessment, the EU would eventually withdraw the recognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates for masters and officers -- a decision that would be cascaded to its 27 member-states.

"In that case, existing certificates for masters and officers would continue to be recognized until the time of their natural expiry, but new certificates would not be recognized to work on EU-flagged ships," the EU said.

"We are of course aware of the significant contribution of seafarers to the Filipino economy. Filipino seafarers are equally important to us since about one out of five foreign seafarers on EU-flagged ships is Filipino. The European Commission therefore sincerely hopes that by March 10 the Philippines will have conducted the necessary internal reforms and amendments to comply fully with the STCW requirements," it added.

In a separate tweet, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. chided MARINA for failing to take action more than a decade since the first EMSA inspection was conducted.

"I warned MARINA and sent a memo to (Transportation Secretary) Art Tugade and the Palace. I will stand by the EU/EC which invited me in Brussels away from a useless conference to tell me what was up: 16 years of no action from Marina and the impending doom of our maritime industry," he wrote.

"Then offered to help Marina but the in the past 3 and a half years, Marina did nothing. All EU wants is the closure of inferior maritime schools some owned by congressmen and others by government officials who wouldn't know academic requirements if was shoved up their asses. Get your fucking asses moving!!" he added.

Several EMSA inspections were conducted in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, and the last one in March 2020, which was the basis of the European Commission's latest assessment. (PNA)