Detail of The Last Judgement, 1904 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov

Philippine authorities recently put out a “white list” of 23 maritime schools with 41 others having to undergo further review. Many folks might welcome the development; some schools have such low standards that their owners should not even be allowed to operate a coffeehouse. But those who, like us, would like to see genuine reforms have serious questions about this entire process.

Not least of the issues is the timing of it all. Although the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) had informed the schools in July 2014 about its white-listing plan, the initial roster of recognised schools (as of 23rd February 2015) was made public only weeks away from enrolment time this May and the start of school year 2015-2016 in early June.

Schools with existing baccalaureate programmes for deck and engine officers which are not on the list feel aggrieved. They fear that their exclusion could lead to a dip in enrolment. The CHED has given maritime schools the option to only offer courses for ratings under the new “Enhanced Support Level Program (ESLP)” — a move that may well be viewed as retrogressive.

Under the “show cause” order it issued last year, the CHED gave non-compliant schools 15 days to explain why their maritime baccaulareate courses should not be phased out. That deadline has passed. So why are many schools still in a state of limbo even if they, presumably, have explained their side in writing as demanded by CHED officials? Idle minds are beginning to make unsavoury speculations.

The initial “white list” is available to download from the Maritime Industry Authority’s website in a file printed on the agency’s letterhead. But not, the last time we checked, from the CHED website — which we find odd. All powers and responsibilities related to the STCW Convention are now lodged in MARINA, but by law the CHED remains in charge of maritime schools and other institutions of higher learning.

Our main concern is not who made it to the so-called “white list” and who didn’t. Rather, it is the yardstick by which the CHED, with the support of its technical panel headed by MARINA, determines the fate of the various maritime schools. In its show-cause order, the CHED said the schools affected were those which had “less than 30% of students taking the licensure examinations in the last three years as proxy indicator for shipboard training” and had “non-compliant curriculum”.

This makes us wonder if the CHED has clear-cut, detailed inspection guidelines and is not relying on what we have been tempted to call “the grocery list”. If so, were the guidelines ever publicly discussed and clarified? Grumblings from maritime school owners are bound to elicit a quick reply: “This is what EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) wants”.

We are totally for meeting the expections of EMSA on STCW compliance and the European Commission to which it reports. Crew-supplying nations have to please the gods of the EU. But we are also for a campaign that observes the standards of objectivity, transparency and due process. Those who sit in judgment could themselves be judged. ~Barista Uno

NOTE: The list of 23 officially recognised Philippine schools offering baccalaureate programmes for deck and engine officers is available from our Downloads section. To download, click here.

Feel free to comment on or share this article. You may also like:

Skewed path to Filipino STCW reform

How good are Filipino maritime schools?