EDITORIAL - Less than a month

The Freeman
EDITORIAL - Less than a month

Many Filipino families have something in common; they have at least one member who is a seafarer, perhaps even more. This is not surprising considering the archipelagic nature of our country as well as the propensity of Filipinos to look for work abroad.

These seafarers are the breadwinners of many Filipino families. The salaries they earn from foreign shipping companies readily trump even the best-paying local jobs available. Little wonder why maritime schools never seem to run short of student applicants every year.

Filipinos make up the bulk of the Overseas Filipino Workers who remitted $34 billion to the Philippines in 2021. The Philippines is also the world’s main supplier of sea-based workers since 1987. Some 229,000 Filipino workers are on board merchant shipping vessels around the world at any given time, comprising over a fourth of the estimated 1.5 million mariners all over the globe.

However, there is now a new development that is threatening to change all this. Around 50,000 Filipino seafarers working in European vessels are reportedly at risk of losing their jobs after the Philippines failed to pass the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) evaluation.

Our failing the EMSA isn’t the new development. According to the EMSA, we haven’t been passing their safety standards for the past 16 years now. The new development is that the final deadline set by EMSA for our compliance is here. It’s this month.

According to Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, the task to bring our maritime schools up to standard was given to five agencies, the Department of Migrant Workers, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Commission on Higher Education.

As to how fast they can move to rectify the situation remains to be seen, although there is no mistaking the urgency of their task.

If we do nothing about the EMSA situation, other shipping agencies around the world just might take the cue from them and start deciding our seafarers are not really up to standard.

And while the Philippines currently leads as number one supplier of seafarers in the world India, China, and Indonesia are not far behind us. They will not say no to taking the top spot.

If that happens where would that leave our hundreds of thousands of seafarers and the families that depend on them?

To say this matter should be attended to with extreme urgency would be an understatement. Again, they have less than a month to do so.

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