THE heads of the biggest manning group in the country recently signed a manifesto of support for President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and lauded the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
The manifesto was signed by the heads of the Joint Manning Group (JMG), Filipino Association for Mariners Employment (FAME), Philippine Japan Manning Consultative Council Inc. (PJMCC), and Filipino Shipowners Association (FSA).
The manifesto reads:
"We, the Stakeholders of the Philippine Seafaring and Manning Industry, representing the employer and seafarers, stand united in expressing our full and wholehearted support to President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., our duly elected 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines.
"We likewise laud the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) as the Executive Department of the Philippine government responsible for the protection and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) including the Filipino seafarers, and their families.
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"We also welcome the appointment of Ms. Susan V. Ople as the Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers, whom we believe is a fitting and excellent choice for the position, due to her long and wide expertise and experience in the employment of both the land-based and sea-based OFWs."
The group stressed the importance of the Philippine seafaring and manning industry and its major contribution to the Philippine economy:
"It is a source of decent employment for Filipinos that provides wages and benefits which translate to an annual foreign exchange earnings of more than $6 billion not to mention the foreign exchange inflows from airfares, medical examination and other attendant costs in the deployment of Filipino seafarers.
"This also provides economic benefits to other businesses and industries like medical clinics, travel agencies, maritime schools and institutions, training centers, hotels, suppliers of work gear and ship equipment, and other ship-related needs."
The group commended the vital role of the Filipino seafarers, dubbed "modern-day heroes," not only in ensuring the transport of cargo needed for world trade but also as an essential workforce to the stability of the Philippine economy, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group members expressed their commitment to continue supporting the strengthening of Filipino seafarers' position in the global labor market amid the many challenges and competition coming from other seafarer-supplying nations.
The increase in the demand for competent seafarers in the world, they said, places the Philippines in the constant challenge to be the "better choice" among competing foreign nationals from China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and East European countries, and other crew sources that are perceived to be the more economical cost.
The group stated, "Our collective mission and vision is to develop a more mature labor market for seafarers, where Filipinos compete on competence and skills rather than on cost, (especially for officers), to man the world's fleet of ocean-going vessels, and reclaim the Philippines' position as the 'Seafaring Capital of the World'.... Being one, we can also aspire to be a center for maritime services, utilizing the shipping and technical expertise of our Filipino officers and engineers."
The group laid out the following issues and concerns for Marcos to act on as urgent:
1. To ensure that the Philippine Response made through the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) fully and properly addresses the findings and deficiencies in the audit made by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) related to compliance with the requirements of the 1978 STCW Convention to prevent the EMSA from recommending to the EU member nations to impose a ban on the employment of Filipino seafarers on EU-flagged vessels.
The group said they feel that the President must issue a commitment to EMSA and the European Union member states that the Philippines will correct the deficiencies noted.
2. On the creation of the new DMW:
– For the DMW to have a structure separating the sea-based sector from the land-based sector, recognizing the peculiarities and huge gap in policies and regulations needed for these sectors. Thus, the DMW should have an undersecretary for sea-based OFWs and an undersecretary for land-based OFWs.
– For the DMW to adhere to and continue the practice of tripartite consultations through a separate tripartite council for land-based and sea-based sectors in crafting rules, regulations and policies that the DMW will implement.
– For the DMW to be provided with sufficient separate funding for the reintegration and welfare programs for sea-based and land-based OFWs and their families.
– For the National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP), which has been placed under the DMW, to be utilized not only as a research and development institution, but to carry on its present activities in providing training and upgrading courses, especially for Filipino seafarers living in the Visayas and Mindanao areas, that has been lauded and supported by the international maritime community and seafarers group, and should therefore be supported with appropriate funding.
– For PhilHealth to allocate higher hospital benefits to OFW families considering that the PhilHealth member paying the dues are already covered by appropriate insurance provided by their respective foreign employers, and will not be able to avail of these while abroad.
– For the DMW to attend to other urgent concerns and issues related to various matters like victimization of seafarers by ambulance chasers, anomalous arbitration practices and legally questionable adjudication decisions, among others.
The group stressed, "It is in consideration of these critical issues and concerns that we believe the Philippine Seafaring and Manning Industry, our Filipino seafarers, and the nation will fully benefit from the competence and potential market value of the country as the Seafaring Capital of the World."
"Through a strong partnership with the new administration, the Department of Migrant Workers and its attached agencies, we can build a better, unified and inclusive maritime nation," the group said.