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Philippine maritime education and GSP Plus

Philippine maritime education and GSP Plus
Ambassador Carlos Salinas September 7, 2022

THE Philippines provides more than 30 percent of the world's total seafarer requirements. Many Filipinos aspire to become seafarers for the higher income the job offers, which helps them achieve their dream of a better life for their families. To provide them with the necessary skills and continuing education, some 90 maritime schools and training centers have been set up.

But questions about the quality of maritime education have been raised over the years, especially in the face of increasing automation, smart technology, changing industry requirements and tougher competition from other countries.

The Covid-19 pandemic further aggravated the situation, forcing teachers and students to shift to online distance learning which, while providing convenience and lowering costs, presents a new set of problems, such as the absence of hands-on learning and lack of human connection, which can lead to mental issues such as anxiety and stress. Are our maritime schools ready for the challenges of Education 4.0?

It is a sign of better things to come that Filipino lawmakers are including the country's maritime education, along with the Philippines' continued eligibility for the European Union Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus, and the fishing industry, in their planned meeting next month with their EU counterparts. It gives our lawmakers an opportunity to take a closer look at the current state of maritime education, identify areas of improvement and introduce measures to strengthen it.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Youth, will join other senators in this meeting with their colleagues in the EU.

He disclosed in an interview that the Philippine delegation will discuss the EU GSP Plus, which will launch a new program in January 2024. The Philippines has the distinction of being the only Asean country that continues to enjoy duty-free access on the exports of more than 6,000 products to the EU.

The other beneficiary countries are Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The EU's Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development.

This access comes with responsibilities. Eligible countries have to implement 27 international conventions in the areas of human rights, labor rights, environment and good governance. A GSP report is presented to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union every two years, giving a detailed assessment of how well each beneficiary country is implementing the 27 conventions.

In addition to close monitoring, several capacity-building projects have been launched to help beneficiary countries in implementing these conventions.

In return, the EU cuts its import duties to zero on more than two-thirds of the tariff lines of their exports.

The discussion on the accreditation of Philippine maritime schools is to ensure the employment of Filipino seafarers on EU vessels.

Senator Angara said that the Philippine senators' presence in the EU is also meant to "reassure our colleagues of our commitment to shared values, including human rights, that the justice system is working, that there is accountability, no impunity."

Thus, the Philippine delegation will also address other EU concerns like the peace process and raising the standard of living.

Economic rights and social rights must go in hand with civil and political rights, Angara said, because "unless we do well in the economic and social rights this will not improve because if a person is poor they don't care about civil and political rights so we have to address them together, they are all human rights."

We are hoping that the ensuing bilateral discussion will produce proposals for moving forward. The future of maritime education and the maritime industry, in general, depends on its results. To borrow the words of poet and essayist Terry Tempest Williams, "The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time."