Maritime professionals refer to those who work on merchant ships and more specifically to those who take on the higher level of responsibility on board.

Why? because only those who undergo formal specialized higher education in a field of expertise and subsequently obtain a qualification through stringent government examination and assessment are recognized as professionals.

Not all who complete baccalaureate degrees are considered professionals, not after they are conferred the certification, an attestation of their having qualified according to law. Viewed from this context, maritime professionals refer to those who possess a license or certificate of competency (COC), i.e. merchant marine officers and marine engineers.

Naval architects should belong to this category of professionals, albeit they work ashore. The Philippine Regulations Commission (PRC) draws up the list of professions which includes naval architects; conspicuously, merchant marine officers and marine engineers are no longer on the PRC list.

The PRC functions of examination, licensing, and certification of merchant marine officers (deck and engine) were transferred to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) pursuant to Republic Act No.10635. Such transfer did not in any way affect the recognition bestowed to this group of professionals, definitely not, just because they are no longer under the charge of the PRC. Before the enactment of RA 10635, there is one which is not covered by the PRC, that of the legal profession admission to which is administered by the Supreme Court.

Some ask what makes the merchant marine profession exceptional as to be extricated from the agency commissioned to oversee the practice of professions. Is not the practice of medical, education, or accountancy professions similarly critical?

The rationale for the enactment of RA 10635 as stipulated in the declaration of policies is found in previously issued legislation and official issuances on the implementation of the International Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The designation of a single maritime administration for the implementation of the convention is the compelling reason why RA 10635 was passed obviously to have one agency establish a regulatory framework that will bring together the various agencies with STCW-related functions. That regulatory framework is believed to be key to achieving a clear, coherent, and practicable system of compliance monitoring and enforcement of the STCW convention.

Other professions may lay claim for the need to get out of the regulatory reach of the PRC. The pandemic could provide convincing reasons to do so especially in the medical and allied professions. Still, any attempt in this direction must be guided by a careful and thorough analysis of the consequences that could arise.

In the first place, what was the reason for a PRC to be created? Was this even considered in the enactment of RA 10635? Or was RA 10635 formulated to respond to a specific and urgent concern? These and many more questions must be answered before any other profession could think of running off from the PRC.

Professional Regulatory Boards

As in the other professions, examination and assessment serve as the culminating step before the grant of a license or certificate of competency. Without dealing with the processes of examination and assessment, it may be useful to examine the rationale for having Professional Regulatory Boards, the qualifications and appointment of its members, their powers and authority, and specific functions they are called to perform.

There must be some underlying principles to warrant placing professionals under government control and supervision. Recognition of the role of professionals in nation-building calls for sustained programs to foster growth in their chosen disciplines and must be one of the general principles adopted by the government. Corollary to this, government sets a continuing policy of building a reservoir of professionals who will take part in moving forward the country's development. Too, there is a need to institute safeguards to ensure those who are sworn to practice their profession do so with integrity and fortitude.

These are principles that professional regulatory Boards must at all times remember when carrying out their duty of ensuring that only those whose competence has been determined through a credible and honest examination are to be qualified and certified as professionals. It is with a stronger reason why the law sets stringent prerequisites in the appointment of professionals who will sit as members of the professional regulatory Boards, regardless of the agency that exercises overall supervision over them.

Given the responsibilities and the enormous tasks consigned to them, professional regulatory Boards deserve everyone's respect and admiration!!