Usually meek being smart on powers of Government, private stakeholders have found unity and courage from the very sword being dangled against them: the EMSA Audit.
The twist is clear on collating reactions gathered from the exclusive coverage of Marino World on two conferences after the EMSA Report was made public:
- Feb 9-10, Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI) 43rd Annual Convention and General Assembly in Cristal e-College, Bohol;
- Feb 15, Association of Maritime Training Centers (PAMTCI), First General Membership, Diamond Hotel, Manila; and
- (Personal inputs from various officers, prominently from Mr. Ericson Marquez, Vice Chair-External Affairs, Joint Manning Group (JMG).
The crux is that EMSA findings are basically shortfalls on the regulators (MARINA, CHEd); that “reforms” are knee-jerk propaganda reactions, patchwork at best… pushing the private sector to tag along for “compliance” knowing where their bread are buttered.
The cry is against the habitual subterfuge of Government on intentions and actions. On times it “consults” with the stakeholders, it is already decided and meetings are simply to justify the outlook of bureaucrats.
There are ambivalence in memos and circulars; some in conflict with others, some others are so impractical they are suspect, supplemented, superimposed. Ironic, since they are supposed to streamline systems, not monkey on operations.
An example is the revisions of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on RA 10635, mandating MARINA as the single administration to enforce the STCW Convention. While some laws still don’t have IRRs, RA 10635 revisions have impressive timelines:
- Jun 15, consultation with the private sector
- Jul 08, approval from Dept of Transport (DOTr)
- Jul 24, approval from MARINA
- Aug 09, publication on a national newspaper to be a law.
Despite a case at the Supreme Court lodged by the Regulatory Commission (PRC). Why the rush? To beat the deadline of EMSA on things done on earlier findings on earlier audits.
By current appreciation, only 15% of Government submissions were acceptable… thus, the sharper knife and shorter deadlines given by the EC based on EMSA audits since 2006.
Atty. Joy Vera Ban-eg, MARINA STCW-OIC Executive Director and MARINA Deputy Director, declares without blinking, “Everything is transparent. There is nothing to hide. There is no secret about this.” Adding, “It is the problem of the entire country,” as the acceptable gall.
Some stakeholders hiss on this hand-washing because RA 10635 mandates MARINA with the main responsibility, not drag down the whole country with inefficiency. On good times, MARINA hogs the power; on judgment day, it summons the very victims to the ramparts!
No joke, she even appeals, “… it’s about time for us to sit down, yun pong sabi ni Sir Philip (says her boss, Felipe Judan) please talk to us, please tell us…” This buttering of a superior confirms the main beef of stakeholders that Government ignores them since she does not even know they have been agitating for real dialogue.
Only a few.
PAMTCI Pres. Arsenio Padilla shares to Marino World that at the early pages alone of the EMSA Report, one would realize there are only few findings on training, the bulk being on the Administration (which is MARINA). Stakeholders are directly affected by the wrong approaches, the bad circulars. When they comply (since they should!), they become part of the error.
At the PAMTCI meeting, C/E Antonino Gascon Jr., (Pres., Protect Marine Deck and Engine Officers of the Phils) notes the bottom line is that MARINA and CHEd are at fault, not the stakeholders. These agencies must start the change; align what they say to what they do.
The outspoken C/E Patricio Gonzales Jr., Dean of College of Maritime Education at the University of the Visayas, is also president of the Natl Maritime Education Schools Assn of the Phils (NMESAP). Attracting 20 members to PAMI’s 70, it was organized November, 2017, because of the draft Executive Order (EO) transferring CHEd functions to MARINA.
Gonzales stresses “we do not want to be featured as kontra PAMI…this is just the output of a clamor of some maritime schools which they believe have been left out in the industry because of the inaction of PAMI.”
At the PAMI open forum, Gonzales confronts Ban-eg, “There are a lot of concerns actually regarding MARINA and CHEd…. Is this (draft EO) the work of MARINA because we have heard so… This EO is very dangerous.”
Ban-eg goes on the usual parry that MARINA was tasked to craft the EO, without identifying who asked MARINA, that this will go yet to the legal mills. But she shows her slips in three procedural points: exclusive to legal minds, “nothing” to discuss on a draft, “premature” to discuss a proposal.
PAMI Pres. Felix Oca “The… findings of EMSA from 2006 up to 2017 of non-action with regards to similar findings during the IMO and the EMSA audits” seem to suggest that after over a decade, the Administration has not learned anything, including the Maritime Training Council (MTC) and the MARINA.
Observers say we were Number One with MTC in control but went lower when MARINA became the Single Administrator. Indonesia is at the back knocking, yet MARINA crafts an EO usurping from CHEd more turf when MARINA cannot even do well on its present job.
NMESAP sent a letter to Pres. Duterte in Davao expressing strong opposition to the EO crafted by and granting to MARINA the authority to operate maritime degree programs, currently with the CHEd under RA 7722, Higher Education Act of 1994.
A university dean, Gonzales suggests complementation between CHEd and MARINA; that this being a concern in education, CHEd should be the regulatory body while MARINA should be the developmental arm for systemic specialization and avoid overlapping.
Gonzales also believes RA No. 10635 has given MARINA much more than it can chew. He points it has no capacity nor the expertise to conduct its own audit. There are also stories from school owners of MARINA auditors blatantly asking for money to give a passing grade to a school audit. Of late, six MARINA employees were caught asking bribes from a maritime training center in exchange for examination leakages.
NMESAP endorses CHEd, requesting for the status quo in Section 6.8 of RA 10635, viz:
- Section 6.8.1 “The CHED shall regulate MHEIs offering METPs in coordination with MARINA”
- Section 6.8.7 “The CHED shall continue all its other functions in supervising and monitoring the conduct of METPs in MHEIs”
Atty. Ban-eg roadshows the rush, the deadline of April 30 is barely three months, time is flying so fast. She goes on hyperbole for her boss who says don’t wait for April, do it by February; don’t wait for October — everyone who matter has been informed like DOTr, DFA, CHEd, STCW Advisory Council, the Office of the President. Once there is a matrix on things to do, “you will receive communication from us” for MHEIs to “(S)how a general view or the general findings on MHEIs so we would have an idea.”
But Ban-eg adds an escape parachute for MARINA’s ways: “but again it’s just a finding.”
Knife at the back.
PAMTCI worries after Michael Esplago, then MARINA MET Supervisor, confirms STCW Circular 2014-01, “Rules on the Preparation and Approval of STCW Circulars,” is still enforced.
Esplago was at the PAMTCI meeting as consultant of VMA Global College and Training Centers. He warns against “on-line” as these appear approved but actually are mere proposals. Circular 2014-001 stirs confusion pointing out with the Executive Director statement the Administrator is not objecting, circulars are deemed approved even un-acted by the Administrator. Stakeholders are wedged between not knowing if they are innocent violators or over-zealous minions.
Ms. Merle Jimenez-San Pedro, Chairman of Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) and President of Mariners Polytechnic Training Center, reiterates PAMTCI in several fora has already objected to that circular, and says there is no such thing as public consultation via online. Even CHEd to MHEIs public consultations are person-to-person, never online.
On the basis of the Esplago revelation, San Pedro places as top urgent PAMTCI letter expressing its studied position against demanding compliance for unwritten orders. She adds if they do not even squeak and keep complains verbal, they can anticipate the solution: meetings.
A member even recalled that on the MTC watch, there were always workshops before any circular is implemented. With MARINA, it is obsessed on just what EMSA wants.
STCW Circular 2014-01 was crafted by then STCW Executive Director Alvin Tormon, approved by then Administrator Maximo Mejia, Jr. on August 27, 2014, to essentially:
- Ensure complete, effective and timely compliance with STCW requirements;
- On extreme importance and urgency, each proposed STCW circular must substantially meet the general requirements of posting, receiving of recommendations, inclusion of valid recommendation, timely submission to and final approval by the Administrator, and publication
- Circular originating from STCW Office shall be posted in the MARINA STCW website for seven (7) calendar days, as a means of public consultation to give recommendations/improvements and revisions;
- All recommendations must be submitted to the STCW Office within those seven (7) calendar days to be given due course;
- All recommendations must contain:
- Specific provisions sought to be improved or revised;
- Improvement or revision on the provision, containing the proposed replacement.
c. Legal basis such as STCW Convention or code, international and national law, IMO model courses and others with citation as appropriate;
4. The STCW Executive Director submit/transmit a final draft to the Administrator within five (5) calendar days from last day of posting;
- Within five (5) calendar days from there, the Administrator may:
- Approve the STCW circular;
- Make improvements or revisions to it, then approve it;
- Return it with specific comments on items that may require further improvement; or
- Take no action in which case after an additional three (3) calendar days, such as STCW
Circular is deemed approved immediately upon certification by the Deputy Executive Director of non-objection by the Administrator.
Marquez believes, “EMSA is very serious matter.” On Amaro’s watch, documents were sent to EMSA basically collated by Esplago, then MARINA MET Supervisor. He is one of three acknowledged experts on IMO but, again, he merely bound a collection of inputs, good or not. He resigned November, last year, suspected of being blamed for errors.
Marquez’ principals are Japanese and not in the ambit of EMSA. Japan is the largest employer of our seafarers and welcomes Pinoy seamen. The only risk is if EU detains Japanese vessels with Filipinos in the crew. This is a low probability, though.
To Marquez, the first error is allowing EU to audit us, a sovereign state. EMSA has no business telling us what to do and not. Our things are the way we do things, hire us on such basis and not on your specs. At worst, give us examinations. Marquez shows the pragmatics: where will Norway get replacement on the 70% Filipinos on its vessels? At the same wage and expertise?
Norway will be hard-pressed to secure replacements at the time, wage, expertise and familiarity Filipinos offer at world-class level, EMSA withstanding.
Each his own.
In a meeting with his principal attended by Vietnam, Myanmar, Korea, Philippines and Indonesian, Marquez felt it was just a merry-go-round. Each country has its way, like Vietnam and Myanmar both with only two years of schooling, no type specific ECDIS. When asked how do they comply, they just issue the certificates for no one can question their right to issue.
The Philippines is the extreme opposite, grinding our seafarers to submission on the certificate. Yet, MARINA is gelatin on policies agreed upon. It passed a memo that after 11 months and 15 days, one may take the examinations.
When CHEd issued a Special Order allowing students to take exams, MARINA balked that even two or three days short, examinees would not be allowed since EU clearly says 12 months (without noting it is not necessarily continuous one year).
Japan and China allow even only six months of structured training, the rest on other training that is job-related on board.
U/Sec Judan confirms in a meeting with Marquez (Manila Yacht Club, January 30.) that they are pushing the EO giving MARINA the authority to participate in maritime education and training. CHEd merely shrugs off saying MARINA don’t have the bodies nor expertise, let alone the limited time allotted to comply.
Marquez is frustrated on this turf war, on agreements treated like “fake news”, where words and sterling words are recycled for brownies points to retain posts without doing the job.
Westbay College Pres. Benito Chiongbian points to Judan the real problem is that students are unable to find slots for the mandatory shipboard training (SBT). Judan says they are now courting South Korea to donate a SBT ship — ugly, because the U/Sec is unaware then Administrator Amaro had declined not one but two ships now given to another Asian competitor. Or worst, it could be mema (may masabi lang), Millennial Pilipino slang for mindless chatter.
Judan claims understanding the situation being also a shipowner. He defends the 30K charge goes to a cadet’s food and not income. He says DOTr is seeking means for SBT vessels.
Coming from a family of ship owners, Chiongbian counters, “Why do we have to buy when there are interisland vessels,” with fuel and operations free, officers on-hand, no overhead, all in. Five times Chiongbian had spoken to Amaro in the latter’s office to no avail. It seems there is hidden exploitation of supply and demand: the more officers, the lower are the wages.
Chiongbian has been advocating that a matrix be implemented in that the bigger the ship, the more cadets should be absorbed. Compliment this with rotation in batches and time should carrying capacity of the fleet is exceeded. STCW does not require continuous one year SBT. Then MARINA Administrator Vicente Suazo Jr. had initial success in this approach and convincing on the use of interisland domestic ships for SBT.
Same old story.
Judan confirms MARINA has a good number of vessels re-measured but insists “It still goes to the function of no available aspects of training vessel.” He thinks aloud it could be towards the modernization of our domestic operations, another posturing he ranks with modernization of PUV land transport in Metro Manila and other cities.
Perhance, EMSA could level the field to begin again. Properly.