On February 11, both houses of Congress approved bills to prevent the potential blacklisting of nearly 80,000 Filipino seafarers from vessels from the EU.
Twenty-one senators voted to approve their bill, Senate Bill (S.B.) 2043, designating the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) the sole organization in charge of issuing certificates and training to over 400,000 Filipino seafarers.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was the primary author on the bill, conveyed that the measure would make the Philippines compliant with the STCW Convention, which was recently amended in 2010. Said Drilon, “With the passage of the bill, we can now say that our country is taking broad efforts to maintain our compliance with the STCW Convention, thus averting any need for the EU to proceed with their ban on our workers.”
The counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, House Bill 3766, was approved the same day. Rep. Jesulito Manalo of ANGKLA (party-list group representing Filipino seafarers), spoke of the measure, stating, “This [bill] is of global import, as it re-affirms the commitment of the Philippines, to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping, effectively serving as the overall governing body for world maritime affairs.”
The STCW Convention has a requirement that all member-governments designate one maritime administration that will be authorized to ensure that training and certification requirements are upheld by all seafarers. Currently, the training and certification of Filipino seafarers is handled by various government agencies, which include the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Health (DOH), and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Under Senate Bill 2043, the MARINA would be the only organization.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who is an administration ally, expects President Benigno Aquino III to approve the MARINA bill and sign it into law by the end of February.