On 31st March 2023, the European Commission decided to continue recognising seafarer certificates issued by the Philippines. At long last it deemed the country to be in compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). This is good news, of course, for the Filipino ship officers currently working on board EU-flagged vessels. The question is, what next?
There’s no need for a crystal ball to divine the future. It is easy to tell where things are going for Filipino mariners and the country’s seafarer training and education.
Filipino ship officers will continue to be in demand, not because of what the European Commission says, but because shipowners have faith in their abilities.
Not a few maritime diploma mills will continue operating despite government efforts to shutter substandard schools. Education in the country is big business.
Dishonest manning agents in Manila will continue skimming money from the dollar remittances of seafarers. Existing remittance rules facilitate the decades-old scam.
Maritime cadets will continue to be exploited by manning agencies and some unions under Manila’s flunkey system. Eager to sail as apprentice officers, they will work their butts off as unpaid office workers and domestic servants.
Filipino seafarers, particularly the officers, will continue to be regarded as cash cows. Many will continue to make money off of them—manning agents, seafarer unions, maritime schools, lawyers, medical clinics, and sometimes even their own relatives.
In sum, it’s business as usual. The national obsession with seafaring and manning other nations’ fleets will continue, most likely for the next 50 years. Of course, this obsession will continue to yield huge benefits for Filipinos. And perhaps it is all that really matters to most.
~ Barista Uno