In recent months, the emerging school of thought on having the requirements of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) implemented through training instead of incorporating these in the higher education programs has caught the attention of stakeholders each providing inputs to the debate according to their respective perspective.
Proponents of the shorter training track speak of easing the waiting time for students for them to go onboard and gain shipboard experience after which they can go back to complete the classroom/lecture requirements interspersed with sitting for the qualifying examination for certification purposes. This track is considered short of a baccalaureate degree although for purposes of certification as required by the STCW Convention imparting operational skills is the focus of the training.
Most manning agencies express extreme reluctance in the proposal to change the existing educational program that will dispense with the baccalaureate degree for seafarers. They say that one convincing attribute of the marketability of Filipino seafarers is their having completed and obtained higher education degrees. Therefore, any attempt to change the academic requirements for Filipino merchant mariners should be deliberated with utmost caution.
Some are looking into the possibility of determining which in the STCW requirements would best enhance the competence and qualification of maritime students if delivered in a theoretical long term classroom orientation and which could be complemented by practical short term training. By and large, this is the system that exists in the archipelago, although there are areas that could be further developed. The existing maritime higher education programs in this archipelago not only provide skills training to enable students to perform assigned tasks but also develop their capacity of reasoning and judgment, qualities which are important for seafarers.
Implementation of RA 10635 pertinent to the provisions of the PRC Law
Those who wish to engage in the discussion on the subject of whether the STCW convention requirements should be implemented through training or education programs must take notice of the provisions of RA 8544, the law “Regulating the Practice of the Merchant Marine Profession in the Philippines”. Section 14 of RA 8544 states that every applicant for examination for the practice of maritime profession must establish among others, “in the case of Marine Deck/Engineer Officer, that he must be a graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Maritime Transportation or Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering in a school, academy, institute, college or university duly recognized by the Commission on Higher Education”.
It is observed that after the enactment of RA 10635 which designates the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) as the single maritime administration responsible for the implementation of the STCW Convention, RA 8544 appears to have been abandoned.
Section 4 of RA 10635 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” should not be construed as having completely repealed RA 8544. Rather, such pertinent provisions under RA 8544 remains as formulated and that Marina shall thereafter exercise said functions. This position is further supported by Section 10. Repealing Clause of RA 10635 which states that “the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 474 on the composition of the Maritime Industry Board and all the provisions under Republic Act No. 8544 relating to the examination, licensing and certification system for marine deck and engine officers are hereby amended”.
RA 10635 introduced provisions which effectively amended certain provisions of RA 8544; where no such change was specifically made, the unaffected provisions of the said law are deemed retained and therefore must be implemented by Marina, including those that pertain to the requirements on who is qualified to take the examination for merchant marine officers.
RA 10635 pertains to the implementation of the STCW Convention; on the other hand, the Professional Regulations Commission according to RA 8981 has the power to regulate and supervise the practice of professionals in this archipelago unless for merchant mariners the same is deemed transferred to Marina.
The above treatise is expected to open wider debates on the subject.