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EMSA reports PH's shortcomings

      MARCH 2014

 THE industry’s worst fear looms large in the horizon.  The threat of withdrawal of recognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates that would probably culminate in the ban of Filipino officers on vessels flying of EU member countries is now getting real.

This after the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) received the final audit report of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) early this month.  And it is not good, to say the least.

Last month, Atty. Jabeth Dacanay, former chief of staff of MARINA Administrator Max Mejia, Jr., tried to mollify the apprehensions of industry stakeholders as regards the results of the last EMSA audit.

She told the sectoral consultation organized by party-list group Angkla last February 7 that nothing in the draft report of EMSA that said the agency had recommended the withdrawal of recognition of Filipino officers’ certificates.

Perhaps it was not an attempt to assure participants in the consultation that the possible derecognition of Philippine-issued STCW documents was farfetched; she just wanted to be truthful.

However, Atty. Dacanay, who was appointed recently deputy executive director of the STCW Office of MARINA, admitted that she had not seen the report which was still a draft then.

Only heads of the agencies concerned with the implementation of the STCW Convention were provided with the copy of the draft to allow them to submit their respective comments on the report.

Confidential

Like the draft report, the final report remains confidential—read: not for public consumption—more than two weeks after MARINA got its copy.

Newly appointed STCW Office Executive Director Atty. Dr. Capt. Alvin Tormon confirmed Atty. Dacanay’s statement. “The final report did not contain any recommendations, whatsoever,” Capt. Tormon said in an exclusive interview with Seaway.

He admitted that he has a copy of the 99-page final EMSA report.  In spite of repeated requests to just see the copy of the report, Capt. Tormon stood pat on his decision not to allow this publication to get hold of the report.

Anyway, Capt. Tormon gave a glimpse of the final report during a recent conference of officers and ratings of one reputable manning company serving several European principals.

It is apparent in the report that “EMSA is not convinced that we’re compliant with the STCW Convention based on the series of the audit inspections,” he told participants in the conference where spoke on behalf of MARINA Administrator Max Mejia.  The occasion was the first time he spoke to a large crowd after he assumed his new post three weeks ago.

EMSA authorities conducted inspections of government agencies involved in STCW Convention, local maritime education and training institutions (METIs) in 2006, in 2010, in 2012, in April 2013 and in October 2013.

“We were inspected for five times (and) the interval (of the visit) became shorter and shorter in 2006, four years; in 2010, it became 2 years; then in 2012, one year; and in 2013, it became six months,” he observed.
“EMSA submitted its final audit report to EC two weeks ago. It is quite alarming,” he told the crowd that included foreign employers, all from Scandinavian countries.


Shortcomings


While it did not make any recommendations, the report lists only shortcomings, according to Capt. Tormon. Though the report used the term shortcomings and not deficiencies or non-conformities, it does not change the meaning; it clearly indicates that the Philippines did not meet the standards set in the Convention.

These shortcomings were basically the same observations that EMSA already made based on its previous inspections. Atty. Tormon mentioned only three: on the National Quality Standard System (NQSS), on approval of training programs and on the monitoring of METIs.

On the NQSS, the STCW Office director said the report observes that “the full implementation of the NQSS has not yet been accomplished.”

He explained that MARINA took over the Administration of the Convention only about 20 months ago, when Executive Order 75 was issued in March 2013.

“The NQSS is already in place but the agencies have very limited time to implement it (when EMSA inspectors return in October 2013),” he said, though he hastened to add that there were some things that need to be improved further.

Management Level Course

On program or course approval, he said the report noted that “implementation of the Management Level Course (MLC) could not be ensured. This is a prerequisite program for those who want to become management level officers.”

“Ang challenge natin ngayon, inabutan na tayo ng (The challenge to us now, we were overtaken by the) 2010 Manila Amendments.  There are new standards, new methods of demonstrating competence, new methods of evaluation. So these new requirements under 2010 will have to be complied so that we could be issued 5 years COCs.
He also pointed out that what is being offered now is still based on the STCW 1995 amendment.  “The 2010 version will start only in early April, which could last three to four months.”
“So this new MLC could not be done in October 2013 during the last EMSA audit,” he elaborated.

“MARINA has just given training providers the latest version of the MLC compliant with the 2010 Manila Amendments. So, once an officer completes this, when he gets his COC that will be valid now for 5 years.

On monitoring and evaluation of training assessment for METIs, Capt. Tormon told conference participants that “MARINA and CHED could not demonstrate that monitoring activities have been fully implemented.”

He explained in brief that in monitoring (METIs) schools or training centers, “it should show if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing any time.”
Apparently, the EMSA auditors were not satisfied with the recent efforts of the two agencies to improve its monitoring system.

Will there be a ban?

“Should EC decide to withdraw recognition of Philippine-issued COCs (Certificates of Competency), I hope this does not happen, as up to 14,000 officers will be phased-out of the system.”

“This is not a joke.  Hindi ito pwedeng daanin sa yabang; sasabihin natin magaling tayo. (This cannot be resolve through arrogance, saying we’re very good), this is something very, very serious,” emphasized the lawyer-master mariner.

What’s worse, it could affect Filipino officers serving onboard even non-EU flagged vessels.  He said the non-recognition of Filipino certificates could have the so-called “ripple effect to other flag states,” hence could likely conversely impact on a sizable number of 67,000 officers.

He said Filipino officers onboard vessels calling at EU ports may also face some problems.  “This could be one potential challenge, a possible consequence (of an adverse EU decision),” Capt. Tormon pointed out.

If this happened, it would be worse than a disaster. It could not only worsen unemployment of Filipino officers, but it would also create a big dent on the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
“This is the reason why Administrator Mejia is not here,” Capt. Tormon divulged.  “He is in Europe together with Secretary (Joseph E.A.) Abaya talking to EU maritime authorities.”
Aside from a last ditch attempt to dissuade maritime authorities in Europe not to recommend to the European Commission the withdrawal of recognition of Filipino certificates, Capt. Tormon highlighted other steps taken by the government to avert the worst scenario.

He started with EO 75, signed by President Benigno Aquino III, and the new Republic Act 10635 or the new MARINA law, signed by the President only this month.
RA 10635 consolidates all the functions (of other agencies on the enforcement of the Convention) to MARINA.

“MARINA is now the head of the TPME (Technical Panel for Maritime Education).  Now it would be MARINA that would tell CHED what to do and not the other way around as what is happening now,” he said.

“We will now start to process the GMDSS (certificates) currently (issued) by National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) as soon as there is the Implementing Rules and Regulations (of the new law).

“These are the actions that we are taking,” he said.

Other steps taken

On top of the legislative initiative, he said MARINA has submitted its response to the report after the agency was provided with the draft.

“Factual corrections were already forwarded to EMSA including documentary evidence submitted last week,” Capt. Tormon informed the gathering of officers and ratings, who were unusually silent almost throughout his presentation.

“MARINA has briefed key IMO delegates at the IMO sub-committee HTW meeting a month ago and informed the ICS (International Chamber of Shipping) about the status of what we have done so far.”

Finally, he said: “The Administrator is in Europe together with Secretary Abaya to talk to EU officials and ask for at least another year (before making any vote on the Philippines).”

He said EC is expected to convene next month. If there would be a vote on the Philippines’ case that would likely be done during that meeting. Thus, the fate of the 14,000 marine officers would be known only few weeks from now.

 PRC bats for 5-year transition period

PRC bats for 5-year transition period
A RANKING official of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) called for a five-year transition period in the implementation of the soon-to-be-enacted bill creating the single maritime administration for the STCW Convention and other international maritime agreements.
    Judging from the capability of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in handling the problem caused by the surge of applications for Certificates of Proficiency (COPs), the agency is obviously in no position to take over immediately the STCW-related functions of PRC as the bill seeks to stipulate.
    The transfer of STCW-related functions of PRC, from licensing to certification of the two marine professionals, would surely add headaches to the current nightmares at MARINA.
    In the licensing alone, MARINA would need some time to build its expertise on administering the licensure exams.
    A good example, he said, is the written examination where candidates for Officer-in-Charge could reach 2,000 every exam.
    “Kung kokorekin mo yan nang manu-mano, aabutin tayo ng siyam-siyam dyan bago mai-release ang resulta.  Samantalang sa PRC pag isinubo mo yung answer sheet at questionnaire, within hours may resulta na (If we were to correct them manually, it would take a lot of time before we can release the results while at PRC, once you feed the answer sheet and the questionnaire to a computer, you can get the results within hours).
    “You readily know who passed. It should be the same system before we decide kung kailan natin ililipat ang (when we would transfer) licensing to MARINA,” C/E Miguel Marasigan, chairman of Board of Marine Engineer Officers (BMEO), said.
    On the issuance of COCs, C/E Marasigan said that many officers are apprehensive to say the least if this function would be transferred to MARINA.
    Currently, MARINA could no longer cope with the long queues in the applications and delays in the issuance of COPs.  It is likely that the situation would get worse once it takes over the issuance of COCs.
    “Nakikita naman nating magkakaroon ng ganoong problema kapag biglaan ang transfer kaya siguro (That is what we see, there would be similar problems if we suddenly transfer the functions to MARINA so) we should learn from the issuance of COPs. 
    “At huwag na nating dagdagan yung sakit ng ulo ng ating mga marino (And let’s not cause further headaches to our seafarers),” he added.
    To avoid such scenario, C/E Marasigan proposed a five-year transition period similar to the practice of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
    “Siguro ang pinakamaganda nating gawin reference diyan ay yung ginagawa ng IMO. Kapag nag-utos ng bagong regulation o nagkaroon ng revision, binibigyan ng 5 taon ang bawat bansa para mag- adjust sa bagong regulation bago ang full implementation (Perhaps, the best reference on the issue is IMO. Every time it issued new regulations or revised rules, it gives member countries 5 years to adjust to the new rules before their full implementation).” 
    “So sana ganun din yung pag-transfer from PRC to MARINA pagdating sa COC (So I hope it will be the same in the transfer from PRC to MARINA on the issuance of COC),” he further said.
    The PRC official hopes his proposed transition period will be incorporated in the law’s implementing rules and regulations to pave the way for a smooth transfer of PRC’s STCW functions to MARINA.
    C/E Marasigan also assured the industry that PRC, which belongs to the Labor department, would give its full cooperation with MARINA once the bill is signed into law.
    “Kami naman sa PRC katulad ng nabanggit ng aming  masipag na Chairperson Tess Manzala nang magsalita siya sa meeting ng JMG na kung magkakaroon ng bagong batas sa issuance ng COC, ay iyon ang susundin namin kasi tayong lahat naman dapat sumunod sa batas . (We at PRC, just what our hardworking Chairperson Tess Manzala said during the meeting with the Joint Manning Group that once a new law had been passed on the issuance of COC we would abide by that since we all should obey the law).” 
    In the end, the PRC official emphasized that PRC and other government agencies support the interest of the Filipino seafarers. “Iyan naman lagi ang nasa puso natin kaya nga andyan tayo para masilbihan natin ang ating mga marino (That is what is in our hearts, that is why we are always here to serve our seafarers),” the veteran chief engineer concluded.


        Creating an all-powerful MARINA

 ONCE signed into law, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) without question would emerge fully empowered to administer the STCW Convention.  
    Simply put: MARINA would be the regulator of the multibillion dollar business of maritime education, training and certification.
    It no longer needs the memorandum of understanding (MOU) it signed earlier with other agencies concerned with STCW of seafarers, giving MARINA oversight function over the agencies’ implementation of the Convention.  The agency would be in a league of its own.
    It is because Congress would empower MARINA with authority to take over all the functions related to STCW Convention of major agencies, which have been a persistent source of irritants for decades among them due to some grey areas in their respective duties and powers.

Licensing and certification of officers
THE two bills approved by the House and the Senate on third reading have practically similar salient provisions.  
    House Bill No. 3766, originally authored by Angkla Partylist Rep. Jesulito Manalo seeks to empower MARINA to “assume all powers and functions of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) relative to the issuance, validation, verification, correction, revocation or cancellation of certificates of competency, endorsement, proficiency and documentary evidence required of all seafarers and all such other matters pertaining to the implementation of the STCW Convention.”  
    Specifically for PRC, which currently regulates the two marine professions: deck officers and marine engineers, the bill explicitly states that “all powers, duties and functions of the PRC on examination, licensing and certification system for marine deck and engine officers as provided in Republic Act No. 8544, otherwise known as the Philippine Merchant Marine Officers Act of 1998, shall henceforth be exercised by the MARINA.”
    To effect these wide ranging changes, the Malacañang-certified bill is amending RA 8544; MARINA would now be in charge of administering the examination and licensing for the two professions and the issuance of the COCs to deck and engineer officers.  
    The agency’s authority would extend beyond the marine officers to include ratings, which is currently regulated by TESDA.  
    Under the bill, MARINA would also regulate able-bodied deck and engine ratings including the following:
    1. monitoring and verification of compliance with the standards of Ratings;
    2. harmonization of the procedures  periodic evaluation, assessment and monitoring activities undertaken by accredited institutions with registered programs for Ratings; and
    3. issuance of Certificate of Proficiency (COP) to Ratings

Closing down maritime programs
AS for CHED, the counterpart measure Senate Bill No. 2043 puts MARINA as the chairman of the Technical Panel on Maritime Education (TPME) of the agency.
    Previously, MARINA was only a member, and later became vice-chairman due to the MOU, of the TPME which, among others, formulates, reviews and recommends to the Commission en banc all policies, standards, and guidelines for maritime education, including curricula, facilities and guidelines to ensure compliance with the Convention.  
    TPME is also tasked to recommend to CHED the closure or phase out of maritime programs of schools that failed to comply with the STCW standards.
    At the Senate floor, when the bill was in the period of individual amendment early this month, Sen. Pia Cayetano however introduced an amendment that would ensure
SEE P14
MARINA makes more rooms for COP processing

AMID the mounting flak the agency has been receiving lately over the processing of Certificates of Proficiency, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) announced fresh initiatives to address the problem.
    In an interview early this month, Atty. Jabeth Dacanay, chief of staff of MARINA Administrator Maximo Mejia, Jr., disclosed several steps that the agency had taken to ease the processing of applications for COPs that continue to flood its STCW Office.
    She said Administrator Mejia had freed the 6th floor of the MARINA office to augment the limited space for the processing of COPs.

6th floor
“WE moved the divisions of the STCW Office from the 6th floor, those that do not have much interaction with seafarers to make (the entire) 6th floor another processing unit,” she said.
    Among those that have been moved out from the 6th floor were the Quality Management System (QMS) Office, Accreditation Office, and Monitoring Office which oversees training providers. They were transferred to Jemarson Bldg. which was offered to MARINA for free by Capt. Gaudencio Morales, president of the PMMA Alumni Association.
    “Wala naman silang masyadong (They do not have much) interaction with the seafarers. So we moved them to other offices; so dito talagang processing and certification area lang tulad sa 7th floor (so this floor will just be a processing and certification area only just like the 7th floor).
    With the additional space, Atty. Dacanay said the agency is hoping it could almost double the number of applications for COPs being processed.
    “Kasi dati 6th floor walang processing doon. Kasi andun yung mga division ng STCW Office; ang talagang processing unit lang ay yung 7th floor (because before there was no processing on the 6th, only on the 7th floor).”
    The agency transformed the 6th floor into a processing area “para madoble yung capacity namin.  Medyo maliit ng konti yung 6th pero (to double our capacity; 6th floor is a bit smaller but) we are hopeful of at least 80 percent increase (in processed applications).”

18,000 to 20,000 applications a week
FROM between 300 to 400 applications a day before the deluge of COP applications in September last year, the STCW Office improved its capacity to around 4,000 a week.
    Later, with the addition of the 7th floor, the office further enhanced its capacity to over 10,000 applications a week. The long queues, however, remain.  
    With the use of the 6th floor, “kaya siguro mga 18,000 to 20,000 applications a week; iyon ang tinatarget talaga kasi parang idu-duplicate mo lang sa 6th floor ang nangyayari sa 7th floor (we could perhaps increase it to 18,000 to 20,000 applications a week; that’s the target since you would be duplicating on the 6th floor what’s happening on the 7th).
    She said there are 8 evaluators on the 7th and there would be 6 to 7 evaluation desks on the 6th floor.
    Administrator Mejia’s chief of staff said that MARINA is just waiting for the chairs which the agency had procured to make the 6th floor fully operational on the third week of this month.

Seafarer Center
IN addition, Atty. Dacanay revealed that Administrator Mejia has met with executives of the nation’s biggest chain of shopping malls, SM, for possible use of the Seafarer Center located on the 5th floor of SM Manila near Manila City Hall.
    The Seafarer Center, which was the offshoot of a partnership between the Joint Manning Group (JMG) and SM, is being used occasionally for job fairs but most of the time the place is largely empty. Apparently the place was tendered by JMG to MARINA for extra space to be used for COP purposes.
    “Yes we’ve taken the offer. In fact, SM people met with the Administrator and they’ve shown the layout and they gave Administrator Mejia a week to comment on the proposal,” the lady lawyer of MARINA informed Seaway.
    There were a few hitches, however. In order to move the processing of COPs at the Seafarer Center, MARINA has to install a firewall to ensure the security and integrity of the process. The firewall will cost around P300,000.
    “Hindi naman sa sinasabi kong walang pera ang gobyerno (I’m not saying that the government has no funds).  In fact, we have in our budget P1.1 million for capital outlay for the STCW Office.
    “If we would buy the firewall at around P300,000 and another P300,000 for back up, it is still within the P1.1 million budget,” she said.
    “Kaso sa gobyerno, hindi ganoon kadali (But in government, it’s not that easy) since in the budget, it said that the fund will be used for furniture and fixtures. The fund utilization is very specific.”
    The same is true with the P46.5 million earlier released by the Budget department for STCW. “The money is for capacity building and training of personnel for monitoring of training providers,” Atty. Dacanay explained.
    Nonetheless, she is optimistic that Administrator Mejia, who is in London attending the IMO HTW Committee meeting, would be able to address the funding problem as soon as he gets home.

Dialogue
The delays in the processing of COPs precipitated a dialogue between industry groups and government agencies.
    Last January 23, officers of industry groups led by MMAP and FILSCAPTS and officials of government agencies led by MARINA sat down to discuss the 5-point agenda proposed by MMAP and FILSCAPTS leaders.
    Their discussion zeroed in on the following concerns and proposed recommendations:
    1. Long delays in the processing and issuance of COPs
    2. Lack of consultation in the drafting of MARINA circulars affecting  seafarers.
    3. Corrupt practices in the issuance of STCW certificates.
    4. Unprofessional conduct of goverment regulators in dealing with seafarers
    5. Unregulated training fees.
    The groups mentioned pertinent details and specific instances to substantiate their complaints.  
    Top MARINA officials led by Administrator Max Mejia Jr. was present at the dialogue. Aside from MARINA’s, officials from CHED, TESDA, and PRC were present at the meeting including Angkla Party-list Rep. Jess Manalo.
    Leaders of the Joint Manning Groups were there as well as seafarers unions and alumni associations of noted maritime schools.
    Unfortunately, members of the maritime press were barred from covering the event held at the Manila Yacht Club.  
    MMAP President Capt. Rodolfo Aspillaga informed Seaway that minutes of the dialogue had already been drafted, but refused to release  the document untill it  is duly signed by concerned people.
    On the part of MARINA, Atty, Dacanay said MARINA is already preparing a response to the 5-point agenda raised by industry groups.  
    The chief of staff of Administrator Mejia vowed to disclosed  MARINA’s Plan of Action as soon as it became official. 

 
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