QC judge upholds closure of 2 maritime programs – CHED

A Quezon City judge has upheld the closure of two Philippine Maritime Institute (PMI) programs in this school year’s second semester, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Tuesday.

Judge Aurora Calledo denied last Oct. 28 the petition of PMI for a temporary restraining order against the closure of the two courses, CHED said in an update on its Facebook page.

"The Order denying the TRO was received late Friday afternoon by CHED Legal Director Atty. Carmelita Yadao-Sison, who heads the CHED Task Force that has been coordinating implementation of CHED actions on non-compliant courses and programs," CHED said.

Calledo said the court was unconvinced that PMI has a ‘clear and unmistakable right’ to a TRO, added CHED.

CHED quoted Calledo as saying there were indeed deficiencies discovered during CHED’s investigation and inspection into PMI’s BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Marine Engineering (BSMarE) programs.

Calledo also reportedly said PMI failed to substantiate that it will “suffer irreparable damage than the damage that it will bring to the international reputation of graduates and the eventual withdrawal of European Union recognition of Philippine STCW (Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping)," according to CHED.

'Disadvantageous'

Earlier, CHED issued a closure order against the PMI's BSMT and BSMarE programs.

But PMI sought to nullify the closure, claiming this would be disadvantageous to its students.

PMI claimed it had complied with certain requirements starting the first semester of school year 2011-2012, adding that CHED rules provide that closures be made only at the end of a school year.

But CHED counsel Assistant Solicitor General Renan Ramos and Solicitor James Cundangan argued that students would suffer no damage.

They added that the smooth transfer of students is already being acted upon by CHED Metro Manila Regional Director Catherine Castañeda.

Castañeda said at least 12 maritime schools in Metro Manila are cooperating in absorbing the students.

CHED also said it is preparing mechanisms to assist the affected PMI faculty in improving their teaching competencies to expedite hiring in other compliant maritime schools.

“On the other hand, should CHED be thwarted in its drive to reform the maritime courses of Philippine schools, the OSG counsel argued that there will be dire consequences not only for maritime education but to the entire maritime industry itself," CHED said.

'Deficiencies'

Last May 11, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Leslie Baja informed Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the action taken by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) of the European Union that the Philippines is no longer considered compliant with the International Convention on the STCW.

The EMSA conducted its own independent audit of Philippine maritime schools and reported its findings on gross deficiencies, including inspections done on the PMI maritime courses.

CHED said Baldoz was informed of the EMSA warning that “failure to comply will trigger initiation of EC procedure for withdrawal of EU recognition of Philippine STCW training and certification system."

"This would mean that in the long run EU-registered ships could no longer hire Filipino seafarers," it said.

Filipino seafarers comprise about 30 percent of the world’s maritime manpower labor requirements.

“Corrective action was therefore directed by the Office of the President and the DFA to CHED and DOLE to prevent unquantifiable damage to the country’s maritime industry a huge earner for Filipino seafarers," CHED said.

The agency added that the Maritime Training Council chaired by the DOLE Secretary was required to submit its compliance report with CHED action to the EMSA by Aug. 31.

CHED reported that of 15 maritime schools identified by EMSA as deficient, all but four had complied in plugging their deficiencies.

"Along with three others already closed by CHED, PMI courses mentioned were also ordered closed due to several noted deficiencies found since SY 2006-2007 which had not been corrected up to the first Order Closure served on PMI in May 2011," CHED said. — PE/VS, GMA News

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