Seafarer’s bill ratified by House and Senate; awaits President’s approval

MANILA, March 5 (PNA) — Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. Tuesday night signed the proposed Act benefitting Filipino seafarers, promoting competency and proficiency.

It is now set for transmittal to the President.

The proposed Act “Establishing the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the single maritime administration responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, as amended, and International Agreements or Covenants Related Thereto”, is a consolidation of House Bill No. 3766 and Senate Bill 2043.

Belmonte expressed elation with the passage of this bill saying, “It is significant that it is the first major bill that we have passed in this session”. He underscored the importance of the bill adding that, “As a country the Philippines provides the most number of seafarers in the whole world and their future is endangered because there are changes necessary in their training, accreditation and skills here.”

Rep. Jesulito Manalo (Party list ANGKLA), the House Bill’s principal author supported the Speaker’s views saying, “This bill will institutionalize EO 75 executed by Pres. Aquino, that will now provide standards of training, competency and watchkeeping of all our seafarers, conforming with the STCW’s requirement in the convention of 1978, thus elevating the level of our seafarer’s with the rest of the world in the global maritime industry.”

Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona (Lone Dist., Romblon) who chaired the Technical Working Group and is likewise co-author of the bill said its passage went swiftly and is proud that this measure will eventually “make our seafarer’s the seafarer’s of choice”, and recognized as global maritime professionals.

Manalo explained that when a vessel enters, Europe for instance, without a certificate of proficiency or competency the crew on board is considered not authorized. “So (in effect) you are sailing a ship that is manned by people who are not qualified”.

“Ultimately, if that happens,” Madrona added, “we tend to lose US.8B income.” Manalo, then said that world trade is US.5T where 90% is in shipping, run by 1.4M seafarers where 30% are Filipinos. “So we are actually a major player in the maritime industry,” Manalo stressed.

The Speaker pointed out that, “This bill, if properly implemented, will address those concerns. That is why it is a real contribution to the future of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who also contribute to our country.”

The proposed Act “shall ensure compliance with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention), as amended; all international agreements implementing or applying the STCW Convention; and other international maritime safety conventions and agreements that the STCW Convention seeks to promote compliance with.”

Because of the vital contribution of seafarer’s to the national economy which is recognized by the State, embodied in the proposed Act is the establishment of systems and mechanisms to promote their protection and well-being while ensuring their professionalism and competitiveness in local and international trade also consistent with existing labor and applicable international laws.

These shall be implemented, according to the Act, through the creation of a single maritime administrative system and structure providing “an enabling environment for the business of Philippine seafaring; establish appropriate institutional arrangements with other agencies of government; and create an effective regulatory framework conducive to the efficiency, transparency and competitiveness of the Philippine seafaring industry consistent with the STCW convention.”

The proposed Act will also harmonize legal and administrative measures taken and provided for by regulatory agencies of government, again ensuring these measures are appropriate and consistent with the STCW Convention.

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) shall be the single maritime administration and government agency mandated to “ensure complete and effective implementation of the STCW Convention.” Functions of the MARINA under Presidential Decree No. 474 have been amended to include its additional powers and functions outlined in the proposed Act.

According to Manalo, “It is our responsibility to conform with the said standards to be assured that the vessels our crews are boarding are well-equipped with training, competence and skills, so that we actually provide the safety of life at sea and of property. That is our primary goal.”

Asked how he viewed the future of Filipino seafarer’s in the global maritime industry, Speaker Belmonte said with optimism, “Let’s not forget we were there before them”, referring to other international seafarers. “For 250 years that the Spanish galleon trade crossed the Pacific, they were crewed by Filipinos.” (PNA)