Bringing seafarers’ issues to PBBM, the Cabinet

The biggest manning association in the country, Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment, held a very fruitful General Membership Meeting on 25 August 2022. With a membership of 112 manning agencies, FAME accounts for 70 percent of the country’s deployment of seafarers overseas.
The newly elected FAME Board this year believes in the vital role of the association in uniting manning companies and in serving as a link and platform for coordination between the manning agencies and the government.
This unique role of FAME was reaffirmed during the GMM with no less than the new Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople as the guest of honor. Hence, on behalf of the FAME Board, we would like to express our utmost appreciation to Secretary Toots, as she is fondly called by stakeholders, for joining our virtual gathering despite the short notice.

Secretary Ople’s presence is truly heartwarming for FAME members. Spending her afternoon with the association despite her pressing schedule showed her genuine concern for and due recognition of the importance of the association and the manning sector. She was joined by Undersecretary for Welfare Hans Leo Cacdac and Assistant Secretary for Sea-based Services Jerome Pampolina.

She started her message by breaking the good news. The Secretary informed FAME members that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had been informed of the pressing seafarers’ issues during the 5th Cabinet meeting presided by the Chief Executive.

Although the issue on the European Maritime Safety Agency is mainly a Maritime Industry Authority concern, Secretary Ople articulated the matter. She was backed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, who shared during the Cabinet meeting the dire consequences to the country should the European Commission derecognize the Filipino Certificates of Competency.

Thus, through the initiative of Secretary Toots, it was agreed during the Cabinet meeting that there should be enhanced coordination among Marina, Departments of Foreign Affairs and Transportation, Commission on Higher Education, and other concerned agencies to ensure the EMSA findings are corrected to comply with the STCW standards.

Further, Secretary Toots’ recognition of industry stakeholders as DMW partners is evident. She invited FAME and the Joint Manning Group to work with DMW on two fronts: One is programs for the welfare of seafarers’ children, an advocacy very close to the President, in the form of educational type engagements.

The second program is for manning groups to create more reintegration pathways for returning seafarers, which is our advocacy, to help them become financially independent, particularly during their retirement years.

Another admirable trait of the new Secretary is she sought guidance and wisdom from members of the manning community and underscored the fact that they know more about their business than anyone else in the DMW. Most FAME members found the Secretary’s attitude inspiring and refreshing.

Later during the open forum, Secretary Toots assured FAME that there would be separate rules for the sea-based and land-based workers in recognition of their differences and, as the Secretary stressed, the rules would have simpler and clearer wordings for ordinary OFWs to understand.

The issue of ambulance chasing, which has given the country a bad image among some foreign employers, was likewise thoroughly discussed and measures were proposed during the GMM.

Suffice it to say for now that seafarers’ concerns have come a long way. Now our issues including EMSA are being discussed at the Cabinet meeting, through the efforts of Secretary Toots.

We cannot go higher than that level. Perhaps this is only the first time that our concerns have reached the attention of Cabinet members. Hence, we are confident that we will be able to get through the challenges posed by EMSA and other potential problems, such as the ongoing IMO Independent Evaluation.

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