Engr. Nelson P. Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), received a plaque of recognition from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Tuesday, June 25, 2013  during the celebration for the International Day of Seafarers.
The award was personally handed by Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya  in recognition of Ramirez’s invaluable efforts and selfless service to promote the competitiveness of the country’s maritime industry.
The Marina award likewise cites his untiring dedication and commitment to preserve the integrity of the seafaring profession and in acknowledgement of his exemplary leadership and meaningful collaboration with relevant government agencies, which led to the confiscation of fraudulent statutory certificates and the arrest of persons who are known nor suspected to be responsible for the proliferation of these documents.
Among the witnesses during the awarding ceremony were former Marina chief Nicasio Conti and current Marina administrator Maximo Meija.
This is the third time that Ramirez received an award from Marina.
The first time was on December 02, 1997, which was handed Rear Admiral Garrido for his contribution on the implementation of the National Safety Maritime Code.
The second award was on September 17, 2007 for his contribution in the consultation on maritime manpower,  which was bestowed by then Marina administrator Vic Suazo.
On April 11, 2013, Marina , in cooperation with the Anti-organized Crime Division of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), raided three dubious maritime consultancy and services group in Manila purportedly engaged in illegal processing of seafarers documents.
The peddler of fake certificates  did not know that two weeks before the raid, they were already dealing with the CIDG operatives and UFS volunteer cadets.
“ We had been monitoring these groups for quite some time and we have been posing as buyers of their services. They did not know that the UFS boys and the CICG operatives were wearing mini cameras on their chests”, Ramirez said.
The shameless and blatant selling of fake certificates, seaman’s book and other maritime documents book along the stretch of T. M. Kalaw near the Luneta Seafarer’s Center is a long –standing problem and common knowledge among seafarers.
“ Our seafarers should know and not allow themselves to be fooled, ” the president of UFS Federation, bewailed.
Fixers charge anything from P1,500 to P2,500 and even as much as P5,000 for a fake Seaman’s book,  when in fact an authentic one costs only P800.
In the event that an applicant has insufficient supporting documents and is really desperate, the fixers can facilitate the processing of fake Seaman’s Book, which can go from as high as P12,000 to P15,000.
Former Marina chief Nick Conti,  who led the Marina raid, had  expressed alarm that the continued issuance of fake certificates provided inexperienced seafarers the opportunity to board vessels without proper qualifications.
 This illegitimate practice compromises the safety of maritime passengers,” Conti said.
At the same, time, Ramirez warned that taking the shortcut route that  fixers offer also compromises the dreams of future seafarers who would rather take the hard, but legitimate route and comply with the necessary requirements.
“ The employment of thousands of qualified seafarers gets severely affected if shipping companies get the wrong impression that Filipino seamen are incompetent and unskilled,” Ramirez added.  — UFS/TNM
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