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  Specifications  Resume  Technical Report 2015 SONA Figure 19 (Decreasing Number of OF’s)    According to DFA, the reasons for the decline in the numbers include: a) stringent immigration policies imposed by the host governments, b) political situations affecting the safety of OFs, and c) repatriation efforts of the government in crisis-stricken countries. Despite the increased number of OFs who returned during the Aquino Administration, unemployment rate in the country continues to decline. This means that the economy was able to absorb these returning OFs as they were able to find employment in the country. Table 26: Unemployment Rates (2010  – 2014)    Year    Unemployment Rate   2010 7.4 2011 7.0 2012 7.0 2013 7.1 2014 6.8 a   The annual estimate for 2014 is preliminary and excludes Region VIII . Source: NEDA  From 2010 to June 2015, political upheavals in some countries in the Middle East led to the mass repatriation of OFs.   From July 2010 to June 2015, 22,161 OFs were repatriated to ensure their safety. Table 27: Other Assistance to OFs   Program   Description   Number of Assisted OFs    Assistance to Nationals Fund Provision of funds for the repatriation of OFs in distress a   58,165 (September 2010 to June 2015)  Anti-Trafficking in Persons  Assistance to victims through endorsement of their cases to law enforcement agencies of the Philippines and the OFs’ receiving countries   4,104 (July 2010 to June 2015)  Assistance to OFs with Death Penalty Cases Provision of legal assistance and welfare assistance 70 (September 2010 to June 2015)  Assistance to OFs with Drug Smuggling Cases 1,513 (September 2010 to June 2015) a  Excluding the mandatory repatriation of OFs from high-risk countries b  Welfare assistance extended includes: a) jail visitation; b) provision of personal needs (such as winter clothing and phone cards); and c) provision of airfare and visa facilitation for immediate family members.    Aside from these, the government also provides returning OFWs, especially those who are repatriated, with various forms of assistance to facilitate their reintegration into the country and help provide a sense of well- being and security. Under the DOLE’s Assist WELL (Welfare, Employment, Livelihood, and Legal) Program, 6,563returning OFWs who sought assistance were provided with assistance such as temporary shelter, transportation services, legal assistance, job placement or access to livelihood capital from the start of implementation in July 2014 to 03 July 2015. The government also took decisive measures to address the concerns of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) on the Philippines’ compliance with the 1978 Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention for Seafarers. In particular, EMSA expressed concerns on the compliance of Maritime Higher Education Institutions (MHEIs) with the National Quality Standards System (NQSS) and the implementation of Management- Level Courses (MLCs). These concerns have been identified in EMSA’s audits since 2006, but the previous administration did not exert serious efforts to address them. If the country fails to address EMSA’s concerns, the EU may revoke its recognition of Philippine -issued STCW certificates for officers. This may lead to the loss of employment of approximately 15,000 Filipino seafarer officers on EU-flagged vessels; and the loss of confidence in the country’s STCW system, possibly triggering audits by other major ship -owning states and putting at risk not only the 80,000 Filipino seafarers in EU-flagged vessels (both officers and non-officers) but all the 401,826 Filipino seafarers deployed worldwide in 2014. Recognizing the importance of preventing the withdrawal of EU recognition, this Administration designated MARINA as the single maritime administration responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the STCW Convention through the issuance of EO No. 75, series of 2012 while working with Congress, which passed RA 10635 in March 2014. The law consolidated STCW functions under MARINA, improving policy coordination, formulation, and enforcement, as close to a dozen agencies were handling STCW functions prior to the passage of the law. The situation in the past made it difficult to effectively monitor compliance of MHEIs with the NQSS and ensure the quali ty of MLC implementation, leading to EMSA’s concern.  In addition, MHEIs and maritime training institutions were closely monitored. A list of institutions compliant with the NQSS was published and a cadre of full-time inspectors was appointed to monitor and audit the quality of schools. MARINA’s STCW office also earned ISO certification from Bureau Veritas in July 2015, merchant marine officers were appointed as full-time MARINA employees, and the 12-month on-board training of officers required by the STCW convention is strictly monitored and tracked. EMSA will deploy another Audit Team anytime from October 2015 to February 2016 to verify the country’s compliance.  
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