In a rare show of unity, three major industry groups have forged a de facto united front to voice out to the government their “strong objection” to the Joint CHED-MARINA Memorandum Circular No. 01 s. 2019.

They even went beyond expressing their strong opposition to the joint circular that details latest Policies, Standards and Guidelines (PSG) for the BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Marine Engineering (BSMarE) programs, they sternly warned: “It will kill the Philippine manning industry.”

The three major industry groups, however, did not oppose the entire joint circular, only one of its salient provisions—the required shipboard training for aspiring marine deck and engine officers.

Unlike previous PSG for maritime programs, the joint circular of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has 2 annexes.

Annex A contains guidelines for the implementation of the shipboard training now called onboard training (OBT), and Annex B deals with the so-called carrying capacity of maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs).

Excluding domestic ships

What struck the three major industry groups in the country is the provisions in the joint circular that excludes domestic ships as source of berths for the 12-month OBT.

Paragraph 22.4 of the joint circular specifically says: “Philippine-registered ships plying the domestic route shall be required to secure accreditation from the Maritime Administration prior to accommodating students for OBT.”

Moreover, for deck cadets’ for OBT, paragraph 2.1.1 of Annex A of the circular adds: “The OBT requirement shall be complied with by undergoing and completing not less than 12 months of seagoing service… following a structured program of training onboard a seagoing ship of 500 gross tonnage or more engaged in international voyages, documented in the Training Record Book (TRB)…”

For engine cadets’ OBT, paragraph 2.2.1 of the Annex says: “The OBT requirement shall be complied with by undergoing and completing a combined workshop skills training and an approved seagoing service of not less than 12 months as part of an approved training program… following a structured program of training onboard a seagoing ship powered by main propulsion machinery of 750 kW propulsion power or more engaged in international voyages, documented in the Training Record Book (TRB)…”

Anomalous situation

Given these provisions, the Joint Manning Group (JMG), the Philippine Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI) and the Philippine Association of Maritime Training Centers, Inc. (PAMTCI) unanimously concluded that the joint circular would adversely affect the deployment of cadets on domestic ships for OBT.

In their letter to MARINA Officer-in-Charge VAdm. Narciso Vingson, Jr. and CHED Chairperson Prospero De Vera III, the three groups said the joint circular “now limits the OBT of 12 months to vessels engaged in international voyages, effectively excluding qualified ships engaged in domestic trade from accepting cadets for a 12 months seagoing service…”

The letter was jointly signed by Capt. Oscar Orbeta, President of JMG; by Mr. Sabino Czar Manglicmot II, Executive Vice President of PAMI; and Ms. Katherine Avelino, President of PAMTCI.

“They said that excluding qualified domestic vessels for the 12-month shipboard training of cadets would surely delay and slow down the process of officers’ development or production.”

Shortage for cadetship berths

The three leaders emphasized that the questioned provisions of the memorandum circular would “create an anomalous situation” by worsening the already acute shortage for cadetship berths.

It would be remembered that just some months back, one of the most pressing issues in MET was how to increase berths for Filipino cadets since overseas ships of principals employing Filipino seafarers could accommodate only a few thousand cadets.

For decades, MHEIs were virtually crying for government to help them in providing berths for their students who have completed the three-year academic requirements for BSMT and BSMarE, estimated at over 20,000 yearly.

Practically all maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs) are suffering from acute shortage of cadetship berths for their students, which the government could not provide a lasting solution.

Instead of easing the lingering issue confronting MET for years, both MARINA and CHED, surprisingly for MHEIs, went the opposite direction.

The situation would certainly turn for the worse since it was, in fact, the domestic ships that provide berths for the overwhelming majority of cadets. 

“That’s the reality on the ground,” commented Dr. Merle San Pedro, President of Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation (MPCF) – Legazpi City in an interview.

She estimated that about 70% of those undergoing shipboard training are onboard domestic ships. In the case of MPCF, of the 19 shipping partners of the institution, only 8 are from overseas shipping.

“It’s domestic talaga (really). That’s why the government has to support the domestic (shipping),” Dr. San Pedro, also a Director of PAMI, stressed. She is also a former PAMTCI President.

Yet, she said, “they (government) have put certain limits to domestic shipping as source of cadetship training.” (More…)

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