After more than a year, maritime institutions have been given the go signal by President Duterte along with other schools to conduct limited face-to-face classes for qualified students of BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Marine Engineering (BSMarE) programs.
The impact, however, of the total absence of face-to-face classroom instruction in maritime programs is beyond one and half years. It altered the landscape of maritime education, affecting thousands of students originally scheduled to graduate in academic years 2020 up to 2024, according to CE Alfredo Haboc, member of the STCW Advisory Committee (SAC) and consultant to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
He announced during a recent virtual forum organized by Women in Maritime of the Philippines (WIMAPhil) that President Duterte had acceded to conduct in-person classes in maritime programs following CHED recommendation. The Chief Executive had earlier allowed face-to-face classes in elementary and high schools.
He revealed that it was first the Technical Panel for Maritime Education (TPME) that recommended to CHED to ask for an exemption for students of maritime programs, BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Mariner Engineering (BSMarE), from the ban on conducting in-person laboratory exercises.
"I thanked MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority), as head of the TPME for recommending the exemption which was approved by the Commission en banc," CE Haboc said. MARINA Administrator VAdm Robert Empedrad was also present at the webinar.
"Then, the Office of the President approved, as of Sept 21, the limited face-to-face delivery of maritime programs, BSMT and BSMarE," added CE Haboc, also program director of PHILCAMSAT, the training arm of Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC).
"So for those students who have not undertaken the BT practical side, you can do it now once CHED issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR); also those students who did not finish the practical side of the laboratory would be able to board ships."
The maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs) nationwide only need to wait a little longer for the IRR on the President's decision.
"They (MHEIs) are just waiting for the final issuance of CHED of the IRR; then, the schools now can apply individually to be able to implement the limited face-to-face (classes)," CE Haboc explained.
He, however, explained that MHEIs have to undergo evaluation by a joint team of local officials from the local government units (LGUs), Department of Health (DOH), and CHED.
Nonetheless, the CHED consultant said the lack of face-to-face has impacted the nation's maritime education and the manning industry.
Due to the lack of face-to-face classes, no students have completed the requirements for BSMT and BSMarE for their academic years 2020-2021.
Another, CE Haboc, who was also the former president of the Philippine Association of Maritime Training Centers Inc. (PAMTCI), said that because of lack of laboratory exercises, students did not finish their Basic Training (BT) course.
"This is unfortunate since MARINA allows the face-to-face delivery based on the guidance it issued. We are conducting blended learning until this time, but no student attended the BT practical face-to-face delivery; they can only attend the online part."
Consequently, those students who could not complete their BT, even though they finished the academic requirements, "cannot apply for a seaman's book because BT is a requirement in getting the SRB (Seafarer Record Book)," CE Haboc said.
"Since there is no OBT phase for class 2020-2021, manning companies can only deploy now those who finished classroom instruction for the academic year 2019-2020 and below meaning we have a very limited number of students ready for deployment.
This is indeed unfortunate considering the continued worsening shortage of officers worldwide as reported by BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in the Seafarer Workforce Report 2021," CE Haboc said.