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Substandard maritime schools warned anew

/ 01:00 AM May 26, 2013

Maritime schools that continue to defy government orders to shut down their substandard training programs are putting all Filipino seafarers at risk of being banned from European Union (EU) flagged vessels.

Ahead of an EU audit in October, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) has ordered the phaseout of half of the maritime training programs offered by 91 schools since these did not meet quality standards.

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Some of the affected schools, however, defied the CHEd and obtained temporary restraining orders (TRO) from the courts in order to keep operating.

CHEd Chair Patricia Licuanan appealed to the defiant schools to stop contesting the phaseout order for the sake of the “national interest.”

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“This is really in the national interest. It’s the Philippines that will be seen as being noncompliant (with global training standards). We’re no longer talking about (individual) schools and programs. They certify by country. Even the best schools will be affected,” Licuanan said.

“So don’t get any more TROs. This is really in the national interest,” she added.

The Philippines is currently the leading supplier of seamen to the world, with Filipinos comprising about 30 percent of all seafarers globally, according to government data.

In 2011, the money Filipino seamen sent home amounted to around $4 billion.

Last month, representatives from the European Maritime Security Agency (EMSA) reviewed Philippine oversight practices on maritime training and deployment to check if the government had addressed deficiencies reported in 2010.

In reaction to criticism of having multiple oversight agencies, Malacañang designated the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) as the central implementing body of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers.

Other agencies involved in maritime training and deployment, including the CHEd, were placed under Marina supervision and ordered to align their evaluation standards to it.

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The next EMSA inspection will be conducted in October where maritime schools will be inspected.

“We have too many (programs) of low quality, that’s the underlying problem,” Licuanan said.

“Our seafarers are the best in the world. If the EU is threatening (a ban) it’s because they really want us … to maintain quality,” she said.

The EMSA inspectors will have their choice of schools to inspect, and may choose to inspect the notoriously noncompliant schools.

“We expect we will be prepared for the visits in October. We expect possibly fewer institutions to be visited because those we ordered for closure will not be there,” Licuanan said.

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TAGS: Ched, Filipino seafarers, maritime schools, Patricia Licuanan
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