It is ironic that while the nation observes the National Maritime Week, Filipino seafarers find themselves in troubled waters. Many are either navigating through the sea of unemployment or at the ocean of death and peril.
With the looming EU ban on Filipino seafarers, there are plenty of reasons why it should unsettle MARINA and the Duterte administration. The failure of local maritime training schools in passing the EMSA review on STCW compliance may cause massive job loss for 80,000 Filipino seafarers aboard EU ships. Worse, it may take several years or even up to a decade before the country can redeem its damaged reputation in international maritime safety standards, leaving tens of thousands of our maritime graduates and applicants unemployed.
It is incumbent for MARINA and CHED to meticulously oversee the concrete and actual implementation of all the corrective measures to address training and maritime safety concerns raised by EMSA.
For a long time, agencies in connivance with training schools and MARINA authorities have been imposing various money making schemes by heaping excessive and unnecessary training requirements and fees that rip-off maritime trainees. As a result, the quality of maritime education in the Philippines has deteriorated with half of all maritime schools now unqualified to operate and a large number of trainees and applicants lacking the necessary skills and requirements mandated by international maritime standards.
The Duterte government’s aversion to national industrialization, the absence of a national maritime industry and the regime’s addiction to OFW remittances forcibly placed a great number of Filipino seafarers at the mercy of overseas deployment to practice their profession which make them vulnerable to abuse at the hands of extortionate manning agencies.
Filipino seafarers are also exposed to many life threatening dangers during navigation. Last Saturday, seven (7) Filipinos were abducted and are currently being held as hostages by pirates off the coast of Nigeria. Migrante is calling on the Duterte government to work on the swift rescue of the kidnapped Filipino seafarers and ensure that they will be able to return safely.