To address the shortcomings earlier identified by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in maritime education and training in the country, education and maritime authorities proposed stricter requirements for maritime schools.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) are jointly revising their series of Joint Memorandum Circulars (JCMMC) 1-3 series of 2019 in their bid to address the shortcomings. The move, however, will make it difficult for new schools to secure authority to offer BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) or BS Marine Engineering (BSMarE) programs as well as gradually trim down the number of substandard maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs), eventually.

This is likely the consequence of the proposed revisions of these JCMMCs as can be observed during the recent public consultation on the proposed amendments.

These JCMMCs set the Policies, Standards, and Guidelines (PSG) for BSMT and BSMarE as well as the Guidelines for Joint CHEd-Marina Evaluation, Inspection, and Monitoring of MHEIs.

At the outset, CHEd and Marina officials clarified that these proposed revisions that were drafted by the joint team are being undertaken "to align the proposed Philippine corrective actions to EMSA [identified] shortcomings."

Among the salient amendment to the existing PSG for BSMT and BSMarE is the inclusion of an assessment that is "critical in certifying the competency of the students."

The proposed new JCMMC also defines the controversial "carrying capacity" of MHEIs, which "refers to the maximum number of students in a class that can utilize a facility, equipment or simulator, taking into account the man-machine ratio, faculty-student ratio, laboratory hours per week and the maximum facility/equipment per week."

Once implemented, this definition of carrying capacity would significantly reduce the number of students per class of maritime schools; thus limiting their intake of enrollees. Another additional key revision is for MHEIs to file an application for recognition of their maritime programs "signed under oath by the President/Head of the applicant institution with the [CHEd] Regional Office concerned not later than the first working day of November of the academic year...." This is to hold them accountable for whatever violations or non-compliance with CHEd standards.

Still, on carrying capacity, the present JCMMC merely requires to "regularly submit to CHED a report," but the proposed revision says the "MHEIs shall submit to CHEd a notarized report using the carrying capacity forms."

It adds: "To determine the student limitations, a notarized report using the carrying capacity forms" shall be submitted to CHEd. Again, these amendments are obviously to bolster the accountability of MHEIs.

Moreover, apart from IQ tests, Personality tests as well as Math, Science and English tests, it proposed that students enrolling in the maritime programs undergo "physical and medical fitness tests" to be administered by a Department of Health accredited medical practitioner.

A new proposed section on Monitoring, Findings, and Sanctions was also considered to address the issues raised by EMSA on the joint CHEd and Marina inspections. It also provides for more detailed procedures on how to handle students moving from a closed program of one uncompliant school to an authorized program of another school, which was also one of the EMSA findings.

Among the proposed revisions still include the onboard training, which Marina had earlier proposed to exclude from the baccalaureate program. Presently, MHEIs are required only to designate a shipboard training officer (STO).

The proposed annex to the proposed revised JCMMC that deals with OBT requires MHEIs to have a "full-time Onboard Training Supervisor (OTS) and sufficient staff." Also, to have a separate office to be called on Onboard Training Office (OTO) complete with specifications as to the size, number of equipment, and internet connections.

Another proposed amendment is the "remediation" which refers to intervention to institute appropriate remedial program (simulation/workshops practical exercises) for the students to rectify deficiencies" during OBT.