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EMSA checks on MARINA’s compliance with STCW


OCTOBER 2014

 It was not the final test after all.
    Many believed that the outcome of the recent audit by a team from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) would be the last, that based on its result the agency would make its mind on whether or not to recommend the derecognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates.
    It would be recalled that last May  the European Commission’s Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) decided “not to pass final judgment” on the fate of thousands of Filipino seafarers serving onboard fleets of European employers.
    A month earlier, the government, through Transportation Secretary Joseph EA Abaya and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Dr. Maximo Mejia, Jr., hurriedly left for Europe and lobbied strongly among European maritime authorities for a deferment of any decision on the issue.
    Hence, the COSS acceded and granted a reprieve, deferring the decision until another audit has been conducted on the country’s compliance with the STCW. That will be October this year.  
    After the October visit, it became clear that it was not the final audit; the EMSA team will still be back next year.
    Moreover, contrary to common expectations that the agency would thoroughly grill the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the team merely browsed over the progress of the Administration’s implementation of its corrective measures it had submitted earlier to the European agency.
    In fact, MARINA Deputy Administrator for Regional Concerns Capt. Herminio Estaniel said the last inspection was “uneventful.”

Verification
“The audit went on uneventfully; they (EMSA) came back here for verification visit,” said Capt. Estaniel, who was hired by MARINA to help the agency prepare for the EMSA audit in October 2013.
    Last year, a four-man team led by Capt. Jaime Veiga took three weeks to complete the audit of government agencies, selected MHEIs and training providers.
    “We went around the regions to visit schools. We went to Cebu, to Laguna to visit Malayan Colleges. It was three weeks of intensive course reviews,” recalled Capt. Estaniel.
    In contrast this time, the team was composed only of two: Capt. Veiga and Capt. Antonio Hevia Rodriguez.  The inspection was completed in six days; they arrived on September 29 and departed on October 4.
    As in October 2013, Capt. Estaniel was also assigned by Dr. Mejia to accompany and provide assistance to the team.
    “Lead auditor was Dr. Veiga and supported by Capt. Antonio Rodriguez.  They looked at the documentary evidence of all our responses we submitted to them last July, our corrective actions and the status,” Capt. Estaniel explained in an interview.
    Summing up the team’s itinerary, he said: “They looked at the objective evidence of these actions. Monday and Tuesday were purely MARINA; we were able to reply to each item they found.
    “(On) Wednesday, we went to CHED.  So far, it also went uneventfully notwithstanding the fact na umulan nang malakas (that it rained very hard). On the fourth day, we went to PRC, they asked for the transition plan, then back to MARINA the next day.”
    “Hindi ganoon kapormal (It wasn’t that formal), it was very brief.  It’s more detailed last year and they visited educational and training providers. Last year apat sila, ngayon dalawa lang (they were four, now they were only two),” Atty. Jabeth Dacanay, deputy executive director of the STCW Office, observed.
    “MARINA lang, CHED and PRC.  In fact, di na nakasama ang NTC, TESDA, DOH kasi walang kailangan i-verify sa kanila dahil ISO-certified na sila.  Although hindi naman nila sinabing ganon (It’s only MARINA, CHED and PRC.  In fact, the team did not include NTC, TESDA, DOH, since it has nothing to verify in them since they are already ISO certified. Although it did not say it that way),” Atty. Dacanay said.

Findings
“Mahirap naman magsalita kasi hindi natin alam kung ano ang ilalagay nila sa kanilang (It’s difficult to tell since we don’t know what they would say in their) technical report,” Atty. Dacanay told Seaway.
    For his part, when asked about the result of the visit, Capt. Estaniel said: “Of course there were findings, good and not so good findings.”
    Among the “not so good finding” on CHED and PRC, the MARINA official commented:  “As far as I’m concerned it’s just alignment of CMOs for CHED and for PRC there were some operational procedures being done but still there were no documentation.”
    For Atty. Dacanay, she said that the team really focused this time on monitoring of educational institutions and training providers on the basis of quality procedures.
    “They looked into our audit plan kasi nakita nila mayroon tayong (since they saw we have a) plan and they asked why some scheduled visits to school were deferred.
    “We explained to them that some schools requested for the postponement since they did not have students and sometimes there were no available evaluators kasi kulang pa nga tayo (since we still lack evaluators).
    “We are at the mercy of our evaluators. Pag sinabi nilang hindi sila pwede, di na matutuloy (when they say they are not available, the inspection would not push through).
    “The team also saw that we did not have the criteria for the postponement pero nakita nila mayroon tayong procedures kaya may kailangan pa tayong i-fine tune (but they saw that we already have procedures, so we still have to do some fine tunings).”
    Aside from monitoring, Atty. Dacanay also noted another area that the team raised some issues was on the management level course which has been an issue with EMSA ever since.
    “Actually they saw only two: on the monitoring and on the MLC, which hindi nila sinabi (which they did not discuss) in detail.         They saw some inconsistencies that they would likely include in their technical report.”
    In their opinion, for example, there were some topics that should be included in the MLC but were excluded since they are already part of the BS curriculum, on one hand, and there were some subjects in the curriculum that were for management level, on the other hand.
    Overall, however, Atty. Dacanay noted “they we’re able to verify that we have been implementing the corrective measures we submitted to them. “Nakita nila na nasunod naman natin ang mga ipinangako natin sa kanila (They saw that we were able to comply what we have promised them).”

Good findings
On non-conformities, Capt. Estaniel, a licensed and experienced auditor himself, remarked: “I don’t think we have a major non-conformity.”
    He went further, he added: “One good finding was that R.A.10635 was a real positive move by the government in support of MARINA.”
    “They also noted positive changes in the operational structure of certification of MARINA. Before it was very chaotic, when they did the audit here at the conference room last year. Now they also did it here but noticed that although the volume of seafarers was heavy there was some order unlike the last time.”
    On monitoring of MHEIs and training institutions, Atty. Dacanay revealed that MARINA got the approval of the Budget department to hire more evaluators just in time.
    “When they came here, eksakto (exactly). DBM’s approval came for additional 15 plantilla positions for these evaluators. We even gave them a copy of the DBM approval.”
    That was important since “before they came here we submitted documentary evidence of our compliance based on their earlier noted deficiencies and part of the progress of our commitments was hiring of evaluators for monitoring of MHEIs and training providers,” reasoned the deputy executive director of the STCW Office.
    Happy sila na magkakaroon na tayo ng pool of evaluators na correction sa dati nilang nakitang non-conformities at iba-ibang interpretation (They’re happy that MARINA would now have a pool of evaluators, which is a correction of the non-conformities and the differing interpretations of evaluators that they saw before),” she said.
    On the MLC, she hastened to add that the team saw MARINA’s memorandum circulars.  Nakalagay doon na may kailangan pang rebyuhin sa (It says there that there will be a review of) MLC which we will do in early 2015.
                              see p19
    “Gusto nilang makita iyon(They want to see that) so definitely  they will be coming back next year,” concluded Atty. Dacanay.
    On the transition of STCW functions of PRC to MARINA, however, she disclosed that MARINA had committed to send the team of the Administration’s plan in taking over PRC’s work.
    “I know if Dr. Mejia had already sent a soft copy of MARINA’ plans to EMSA including a soft copy of DBM’s approval of our evaluators and the schedules of monitoring of schools and training providers.”

President’s intervention?
When pressed about why the EMSA team was somewhat less strict this time, Atty. Dacanay surmised that the document submitted by MARINA last July may have contributed to the less rigorous audit by the team.
    “Because before they came here we submitted documentary evidence of our compliance based on their earlier noted deficiencies as well as the progress of our commitments, like the hiring of evaluators, monitoring of MHEIs and training providers.”
    She dismissed as mere hearsay the talks in some industry quarters that the recent trip to Europe of President Aquino might have something to do with it. “Haka-haka lang nila iyon (That was only their assumption),” Atty. Dacanay declared.
    It is evident that both Capt. Estaniel and Atty. Dacanay are confident that the Administration performed better this time than last year’s audit.
    This confidence stemmed partly from the fact that the team advised MARINA to simply comply with the Convention.
    “In the closing meeting sinabi nila (they told us that) we will be on track if we would just follow STCW not because of EMSA inspections. We should continue our compliance with STCW and not just to please or satisfy EMSA,” revealed Atty. Dacanay.
    Hence, the MARINA official concluded that it is safe to say: “Hindi naman natin sinasabing off the hook na tayo (We can’t say that we’re already off the hook) but the possibility of derecognizing Philippine-issued STCW certificates is now very slim.”

Role in the industry
ANOTHER important development for the association is its growing role not only in crewing but for the entire maritime industry as well.
    From a virtual nobody in the industry some decades ago, the PMMA Alumni Association has started to make its existence felt in major developments in the industry.     
    It recently gained recognition from established industry groups such as the Joint Manning Group, which invited the Association to become its Associate Member, as well as from government agencies in the maritime industry, notably the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
    Being the first group to extend help to MARINA in resolving its problems over office space and lack of computer hardware certainly boosted its stature in the industry, further gaining the respect of the manning community. The association, courtesy of Capt. Morales, offered free office space to MARINA at the Jemarson Bldg. in Ermita, Manila and provided 10 additional sets of computers and printers with scanners. Around 30 MARINA employees still hold office at the building to this day.
    The most significant however was the invitation extended by  to the association to share its position during public hearings for the bill that became R.A. 10635 that designated MARINA as the single maritime Administration.
    “Our association was given by the House of Representatives and the Senate the opportunity to participate in the deliberation and eventual passage of R.A. 10635 championed by Cong. Jess Manalo HM Class ’81,” Capt. Morales reported to over 300 fellow alumni gathered at the Palacio de Maynila to celebrate their association’s founding anniversary.
    Even media outfits have sought, through Capt. Morales, the association’s positions in various issues affecting not only the Academy, but also the Filipino seafarers and the maritime industry as well, indicating its stand those on issues and concerns carry some weight.
    In spite of its new found influence, the association would continue to opt for moderation. Instead of an adversarial position, the association under Capt. Morales would generally adopt a supporting role to established authorities in the industry.
    Amid differing positions on certain issues, “our association remains steadfast, we will always be part of the solution in every industry concerns,” the Alumni president emphasized in his anniversary message.
    “Tayo po ay magpapatuloy na aktibo kasama ng ibang stakeholders gaya ng JMG, ng AMOSUP, at iba pang organisasyon sa paghahanap ng tamang solusyon at direksyon para tugunan ang kasalukuyan at hinaharap na problema ng industriya (We will continue to remain active along with other stakeholders such as JMG, AMOSUP and other organizations in finding appropriate solutions and direction to address present and future problems of the industry),” he told his fellow alumni.

More VIPs join the association
WITH its prestige and growing influence in the industry, the association has begun to attract personalities to its fold. More and more national figures are joining its ranks; they are honored to be invited as honorary members of different classes of the association.
    They are Angkla Partylist Rep. Manalo Class ‘81, MARINA Administrator Maximo Mejia, Jr. HM Class ’84, and DIWA Partylist Rep. Emmeline Aglipay HM Class ‘97, just to name a few.
    A year earlier, it was the leading presidential hopeful Vice President Jejomar Binay who was adopted by PMMA Class ‘73.
    “They add prestige to the association. More importantly, they serve as the association’s links to high places in the government.  Mas madali na silang lapitan kung may gustong i-promote ang alumni (This makes it easier for  alumni to approach them if they something to promote for) the interest of the industry,” commented C/E Guilbert Llamado, secretary-general of the Alumni Association.
    The latest national figure to join the association is Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano, who showed up that evening for his induction as honorary member of Class ‘90.
    Appreciative of the gesture -- his adoption into the PMMA Alumni Association -- as well as his heightened appreciation of the maritime industry, Sen. Cayetano has found a new role for his fellow alumni.

Fresh mandate
NOTING that most members of the
Legislative branch have very scant knowledge of the maritime industry, particularly the crewing sector that accounts for over $5B of the country’s foreign exchange income, he called on graduates of the Academy to help educate government officials especially lawmakers on the importance of the industry in the national economy.
    Legislators have very little understanding of the maritime industry. This dearth of working knowledge on the maritime industry is one of the reasons maritime-related bills, even those that seek to amend obsolete laws enacted during pre-war years, have nil chance of getting congressional nod.
    DOnning a PMMA Alumni jacket, Sen. Cayetano urged PMMA alumni: “Reach out to lawmakers, educate them”.
    The senator, one  the more promising politicians in the national political arena today, was emphatic as he  exhorted  graduates of the state-owned maritime institution to serve as bridge between the government and the maritime industry.
    The lawmaker took note of the fact that many members of the association are  themselves owners of shipping-related firms or hold key positions in manning companies.
    Elated by the senator’s recognition of their  influential role in the industry and the government, many PMMA alumni are raring to respond positively to Sen. Cayetano’s call.
    Speaking on behalf of the alumni, Capt. Morales said the Association is more than willing to respond to the new task given by the senator.
     “Not only the government and lawmakers, we are also ready to raise the issues of seafarers to industry stakeholders,” Capt. Morales, also president of the Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP), told Seaway.
    He also expressed appreciation to the invitation extended by Sen. Cayetano to the Alumni Association and the ISP to bring to the latter’s attention issues that will advance the interest of the maritime industry.
    This is a testament of the growing influence of the graduates of the government-run institution in maritime industry.

 
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