JBLFM University slams closure yarn

WHAT CLOSURE? Dr. Mary Lou Lacson Arcelo (third from left), Chairman of the Board of the John B. Lacson Foundation, presents the findings of the last audit conducted by the Maritime Industry Authority. With her are (from left) Dr. Ralph Pador, JBLFMU Executive Assistant to the CEO; Dr. Ronald Raymond Lacson Sebastian, JBLMU Chief Executive Officer; Capt. Luis Evidente, Executive Assistant to the CEO; and Robert Parcia, JBLFMU-Molo administrator.

By Jennifer P. Rendon 

In the country’s seafaring industry, the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime Foundation (JBLFMU) is synonymous to quality maritime education.

That’s why students, their parents, shipping and manning partners, and even the management were surprised by insinuations that the university might be recommended for closure.

The reports stemmed from a report of a national daily stating that 61 schools face closure by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) due to their alleged non-compliance with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for Seafarers.

The article ended with the citation of big maritime schools, including JBLMFU, as among the auditees of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) which created the insinuation that the closure is due to the EMSA audit.

Locally, it was reported that JBLFMU will be audited next and another report claimed that the university is among the 61 schools on the brink of closure.

But in a press conference yesterday, Dr. Ronald Raymond Lacson Sebastian,

JBLMU Chief Executive Officer, denied the closure reports.

How come that JBLFMU – the only maritime university in the Philippines that was recently granted an Autonomous Status by the Commission on Higher Education and a Level 4 PACUCOA Accreditation – could face closure?

Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA) Level 4 accreditation is the highest accreditation in the country for an educational institution, more so for a maritime educational institution.

For one, Sebastian clarified that the closure recommendation by MARINA, as the reports alleged, is a different matter to the EMSA audit where the JBLFMU was mentioned to be included.

“We have always been compliant to MARINA standards. In fact, we remain as a benchmark for maritime education for the agency,” he said.

On the matter of the “misleading” reports, the alleged audit cited as basis for the closure is actually by MARINA, while the EMSA audit is a different thing.

However, Capt. Luis Evidente, Executive Assistant to the CEO, pointed out that MARINA has no power to close down the school.

“MARINA’s function is only recommendation. Only the Commission on Higher Education can do closure of schools only after due process,” he said.

Sebastian said JBLFMU was not even mentioned as among the 61 schools facing closure but was mentioned to be part of the schools to be audited by EMSA.

“There are 91 maritime institutions in the country. Thirty schools are still to be evaluated.

The audit is not done and over. In fact, some of the schools in the region are now being audited,” Sebastian said.

Meanwhile, Sebastian explained that EMSA is a European Union agency charged with reducing the risk of maritime accidents, marine pollution from ships and the loss of human lives at sea by helping to enforce standards peculiar to the European Union.

This means, Sebastian said, that EMSA takes the responsibility of checking if manpower deployed to vessels of its member countries are qualified to meet these standards.

“Since JBLFMU is one of the leading maritime schools in the Philippines that provide manpower to its vessels, it regularly audits the university as part of its measures in ensuring safety of its vessels,” he said.

In fact, it would be the third time the agency has audited the university.

“As of the past two audits, we have had no problems meeting the standard,” Sebastian said.



Sebastian also said he saw no problem with the audit.

“JBLFMU has always been open to audits. We would not reach where we are now were it not for these external audits that we willingly submit to,” he said.

Dr. Mary Lou Lacson Arcelo, JBLF chair of the board, said they have been asking to be audited if only to show that Philippine maritime schools are one of the best in the world.

After all, both Sebastian and Arcelo believed that audits are instrumental in ensuring that the university’s vision to be a globally leading institution providing high quality training and education be met.

Sebastian added that they are confidently committed to producing globally-competent professionals in the service of maritime.

“This we do to continue the legacy of my grandfather, Capt. John B. Lacson, to make the maritime profession honorable and noble,” he said.