BERTIZ MEETS MARITIME ON MIGRATION

Cong. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III re-booked his official trip to Japan to join industry stakeholders at the Maritime Forum on Human Capital Sector: Legislative Agenda hosted by the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MPM) held September 28th at the Manila Yacht Club.

It coincides with the celebrations of International Maritime Day and National Maritime Week.

The forum focused on House Bill 192, proposing to create a Department of Migration and Development (DMD), defining powers, functions and funds.

HB 192 was filed June 30, 2016 by Bertiz and co-authored by 36 congressmen. It was referred on July 26th to the Committee on Government Reorganization and, secondarily, to the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs.

Bertiz is the nominee of ACTS-OFW PartyList, an OFW for 12 years, former CEO of a land-based firm, a partner in a manning agency. He opened his discourse praising MMP “for initiative to come up with the blueprint that would elevate the level of progress of the maritime industry.”

He promises to fine-tune the bill on inputs from MMP, with end-in-view to enhance Pinoy competence and professionalism on seafaring.

Concept.

DMD shall be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the Executive branch for national migration and development. Also, DMD shall harness for nation-building Filipino migrants returning home with skills and expertise to create, sustain and strengthen local employment and decent work.

Section 14 thereof proposes to transfer bureaus, offices and agencies like offices of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) pertinent to international seafaring.

Concerns.

The Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI) and the Association of Training Centers (PAMTCI) both support the creation of DMD, placing under one department agencies involved in the safety, welfare and protection of Filipino migrant workers. DMD enhances coordination, facilitate a cohesive set of policies, avoid duplication and conflict in regulations and processes.

However, there is concern on Section 14 (l) and (m) on transferring the National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP) and MARINA STCW office, among pertinent other offices because:

  1. The STCW Convention is primarily a maritime safety convention and not of labor. It sets the minimum training and certification requirements for a seafarer to be considered as competent to perform assigned tasks onboard, thus ensure the ship can be safely navigated. The STCW Office, therefore, is primarily tasked that seafarers are certificated and competent according to the STCW mandates.
  1. Compliance with the STCW is closely linked to the implementation of other maritime safety conventions such as the Intl Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, (SOLAS), Collision Regulations (COLREG) and the Intl Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1978, as amended, (MARPOL) and other IMO codes, recommendations and regulations. These are remotely concerns of migration; thus out of DMD purview.
  1. The Philippines is undergoing the final phase of the audit by the European Maritime Safety Administration (EMSA), the EU agency in-charge of assessing compliance with the STCW convention by countries with seafarers on European Union flagged ships. Failure to pass EMSA audit will mean non-hiring of Filipino seafarers considered unseaworthy.
  1. For over 15 years, STCW implementation was undertaken by a labor agency with a mind-set of employment rather than STCW compliance, creating a disconnect with shipowners who must comply with STCW mandates.
  1. NMP is a maritime facility to build seafarers’ skills and knowledge through STCW-based research activities, its attachment to MARINA is even proposed to significantly enhance Philippine STCW compliance.
  1. Inclusion of the MARINA-STCW and NMP violates Article VI, Section 26 (1) of the Constitution which states bill by Congress shall “embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.” However, all of HB192 are on migration except for Section 14 (i) 7 (m) proposing the said transfers.

Consultations.

For so many months, Bertiz claims to have conducted public consultations and hearings. Capt. Jess Morales of Integrated Seafarers (ISP) has attended two of the hearings under the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs and Committee on Government Reorganizations.

MARINA strongly opposes the bill; maritime interests also point out land-based rules are applied as crafted by Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Bertiz assures his audience the one-department, one-umbrella concept will have a bureau or agency for particular sectors, his thinking based on his business experience on both land (recruitment) and sea (manning) based industries.

DMD is not unique, 27 countries have similar departments. A priority bill of the President, the House leadership is rushing passage on the committee level. However, Bertiz claims he counsels to wait for more and wider inputs from stakeholder before approval at the plenary session.

He promised to ask the House Secretariat to call a forum with purely maritime interest, like seamen group, local domestic shipping, training schools, manning industry.

(Applause).

But on the promised forum, Bertiz should really prepare his scabbard for sharpened knives on so many other issues of critical and pivotal ranges.

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