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Seafarer concerns government's top priority – DMW

Seafarer concerns government's top priority – DMW
Yashika F. Torib December 21, 2022

THE concerns of the Filipino seafarers are currently the highest priority of the administration, Patricia Yvonne Caunan, Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation, said in relation to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s commitment to European shipowners.

President Marcos reassured EU shipowners during a three-day visit to Brussels, Belgium last week that the employment and welfare of Filipino seafarers will be protected through the creation of the International Advisory Council on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA).

"The President ordered for the immediate creation of the IACGMA to address the concerns of the maritime sector and focus on the global competency of seafarers," Caunan said.

She added that the IACGMA's scope will be different from the Maritime Industry Authority's (Marina) functions, as it will focus on the wider scope of compliance with international maritime standards and European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) audit findings.

"President Marcos has met twice with EU shipowners and representatives of the International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Labor Organization (ILO), and EMSA. He was updated on [the status of EMSA's audit in the Philippines] and suggested steps on how to solve it," Caunan explained.

The European Commission, in whose name the EMSA inspections have been conducted since 2006, is strict in enforcing the STCW provisions on training facilities and procedures of countries supplying seafarers to European-flagged vessels.

Based on the 2017 EU Seafarers Statistics, the Philippines is the primary non-European country that deploys seafarers onboard EU-flagged ships, with about 31,000 ship officers because of their Certificates of Competencies (COC) recognized by European shipowners.

The DMW undersecretary said the EU shipowners were grateful for the Chief Executive in meeting them, stating that it was the first time a Philippine president met and discussed with maritime decision-makers in the past 20 years.

"They are very thankful. They have also committed to giving not just consultancy support but practical assistance [to the Philippines], as they have been hiring Filipino seafarers since the time of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. They care for our seafarers," Caunan said.

"The first quarter of 2023 will be very crucial for us. Time is of the essence, as the President has ordered the immediate drafting of a memorandum of understanding on the creation of IACGMA," she added.

President Marcos and Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople will meet with Filipino ship officers and maritime stakeholders this week to further discuss the issues on training and education.