THE Philippines has ratified only 21 of the 59 different international conventions affecting the welfare of seamen and the shipping industry as a whole, a lawmaker said on Wedneaday.
Speaking during the celebration of Maritime Week, Party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo of Angkla said that as a full member of the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, and a long-time member of the governing IMO Council, “we [the Philippines] have an equal responsibility to adopt and implement, through our own national laws the full range of governing principles that make up the rules by which the maritime industry operates.”
Ironically, seven Filipino seamen were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Nigeria while the country was celebrating Maritime Week.
Five other Filipinos were left unharmed by the pirates who took over the Swiss bulk carrier m/v Glarus.
Unfortunately, Manalo, chairman of the House committee on workers affairs, said, “we have fallen short in this respect having only ratified, as a country 21 of the 59 different international conventions that make up the rules of the sea.”
“And perhaps this is why there is a gap that exists in what we perceive to be compliance on our part, and compliance as viewed by others. Even within the conventions that we have ratified as a country, the matter of the strict interpretation and full understanding of what a convention means and how it is to be implemented is also a bone of contention across various nation states,” he added.
The Philippines has long been the biggest sources of seamen in the world with some 500,000 deployed worldwide.
Despite being the biggest source of seamen, however, the country has faced criticism from international bodies like the European Union, which expressed criticisms on the Philippines’ systems and procedures in training and deploying seamen and expressed doubts on the country’s ability to abide by the rules laid out in the international conventions that govern the maritime industry all over the world.
“Can we be both on top of the world in our own eyes, and yet come up short in the eyes of others, especially those from regulatory bodies, at the same time? What does it mean to come up short when measured against standards?” Manalo asked.
He said the 59 international conventions, of which only 21 have been ratified by the Philippines have been adopted by IMO’s 174 member countries.
These conventions, he said cover areas such as ship design and construction; seamen training, certification and watchkeeping; carriage of cargo; navigation and ship operating systems and equipment; and pollution prevention and response.