80,000 seamen may lose jobs, warns Drilon

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Senate President Franklin Drilon: A warning. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—More than 80,000 Filipino seafarers stand to lose their jobs if a bill meant to improve the current system of overseeing maritime workers isn’t passed into law soon, Senate President Franklin Drilon warned over the weekend.

Drilon is the sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2043, or the Marina bill, that seeks to institute major structural changes in the maritime regulatory system.

He said the measure needed immediate legislative attention “to avert an impending ban on Filipino seafarers by the European Union,” mainly because of the Philippines’ continued failure “to demonstrate its compliance with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, as amended.”

Congress has to act fast before the European Maritime Safety Agency completes its latest audit report that will determine if the Philippines is indeed in conformity with the STCW Convention, he said.

“I am informed that around 80,000 Filipino workers will eventually lose their jobs if such a ban is implemented by the European Union,” Drilon said.

“Worse, if other countries follow the EU’s move, at least 300,000 more workers around the globe—and their families—will lose their precious livelihood,” he added.

SB 2043 seeks to establish a single maritime administration, the Maritime Industry Authority, to take charge of overseeing the training and certification of Filipino seafarers, and ensure that these follow international standards based on the STCW Convention.

According to Drilon, the backlash from an EU ban won’t be felt by the seafarers and their families alone.

“The country will lose billions of pesos from sea-based workers’ remittances which have aided the economy by fueling domestic consumption and preventing foreign exchange instability,” Drilon said.

He said seafarers’ remittances reached nearly $5 billion in 2012.

Aside from aligning the Philippine maritime system with international standards and addressing inefficiencies in the current system, Drilon said the passage of the bill would also “bring improvement in the skills and competitiveness of Filipino seafarers.”

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