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Philippines president pledges action on maritime issues President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr
President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr met with shipping leaders in Europe this week to discuss matters affecting the industry.

At the meeting in Brussels, Marcos said his administration would do everything it could to prevent Filipino seafarers being barred from crewing EU-flagged vessels. Some 50,000 Filipino seafarers are at risk of being barred from EU vessels after the European Commission’s Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) found deficiencies in Filipino seafarer education, training and certification.

The meeting was attended by senior representatives from ICS, IMEC, ITF, ECSA, CMA CGM among others.

The Philippines is the largest supplier of both officers and ratings to the maritime industry, which is a significant source of foreign revenue for the nation. Marcos said he would act to prevent job losses among Filipino seafarers.

“Our seafarers are of great importance to the Philippines in many, many ways. Although we recognize that in the last many years, the Philippines has done very well in terms of being the leading [prover of] seafarers around the world. However, with the changing situation after the pandemic, with the changing situation especially when we talk about supply line problems, all of these areas have to be revisited,” Marcos said during the meeting.

“That comes with the training, changes in the curriculum, all of these things have to be ascertained,” he added.

Also on the agenda during the meeting was the Philippines’ insurance claims industry, which maritime leaders painted as predatory and problematic. A system designed to bring swift resolution in cases of injury and aggrievance is being exploited to make fraudulent and costly claims, the meeting heard, with Filipino Seafarers a victim in the process.

Representatives called for a crackdown on the claims industry, which they said has already led to companies sourcing seafarers elsewhere.

President Marcos announced to delegates an International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA) will be formed by the Philippines Department of Migrant Workers minister. The new body will combine expertise from industry and government to address issues including training and the claims industry.

IACGMA will also play a role in advising the government on how to navigate the coming changes to the maritime industry, such as the transition to new fuels and adoption of new technologies, and how Filipino seafarers can be prepared to face those changes.

Francesco Gargiulo, CEO, IMEC, said: “It was refreshing to meet a leader that is so in tune with the needs of his citizens today. I was impressed with the President’s grasp of the complex picture of the maritime industry in the Philippines and comforted by his stern determination to tackle our common challenges head on.”  

ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten, said: “Seafarers are at the very heart of our industry and cannot be forgotten as we look to the future. Every member of the delegation meeting with President Marcos Jr today recognises this and we ensured that our seafarers were not lost sight of. As a major seafaring nation, the Philippines is key to our industry and its future, and collaboration and cooperation with governments is vital.”

ITF General Secretary, Stephen Cotto, said: "The Philippines is a crewing powerhouse. Filipino seafarers have contributed much to our global shipping industry over the decades.”

“But it is not without its issues. That’s why it was encouraging for seafarers’ unions to hear President Marcos acknowledge some of those issues in Brussels. Better yet, the president has already started to take action with the establishment of a new tripartite maritime advisory body.”

“We want to make sure the Philippines is well-positioned to make the most of the opportunities coming down the line. Chief among these is helping the world to meet the massive training challenge before us as the industry needs to upgrade seafarers to operate a decarbonised global fleet. We want the Philippines to be at the table, with a fair share. After all, we’ll never get to a zero-carbon shipping sector without maritime leaders being engaged.”

Late last month, Jaime Jimenez Bautista, Secretary of the Philippines Department of Transportation, pledged to "barrage of corrective actions" to keep the Philippines on the STCW white list and in lines with EMSA requirements.

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