In 1974, Presidential Decree No. 474 was issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos aimed at accelerating the integrated development of the maritime industry which was thought as a condition precedent to attaining national objectives. The circumstances at the time when PD 474 was promulgated have considerably changed compared to the situation in which we find this archipelago now.

We have gained some progress. The Philippines is now considered a major supplier of shipboard labor. Ships were launched from Philippine shipyards .The country’s domestic fleet was re-fleeted although not as modernized and sophisticated as was in the blueprint; at least there are better ships serving the nautical highways. Philippine-flagged ships in international trade peaked to more than 500 but now down to just over a hundred ships.

Yet, just as this archipelago’s maritime industry has registered growth in the decades immediately following the issuance of PD 474, it has gradually lost its ability to sustain its efforts to becoming a leader in the maritime sphere. In the seafaring sector, the Philippines is challenged by emerging seafaring countries which before were not even running second to it. The Philippine overseas merchant fleet was overtaken by ships flagged in small island states which may not even have the same sophistication as that of this archipelago’s maritime administration.

Has PD No. 474 achieved the objectives?
If not, why not? This is not the time to attribute blame to anyone. What is important is first to accept there is a problem why the maritime industry is in a state it finds itself now. Then try to find what it is and where it is coming. Denying there is a problem hardly helps. Unless there is acknowledgment of the problem, no proper solution could be introduced.

And who must identify and accept there is a problem? All maritime stakeholders!

One can argue — the stakeholders, including government, have been pointing out the problems years ago. PD No. 474 was one of the solutions introduced in 1974 and several other legislation enacted after that. Would the stakeholders agree that probably the spate of maritime laws which substantially contradicted the policy directions of PD 474 have somehow contributed in spawning some of the problems?

PD 474 speaks of the development of an integrated maritime industry to resolve the problems that come with a fragmented developmental and regulatory regime for the industry. More than four decades after, the Philippine maritime industry is as fragmented as it was before, maybe even worse with more players coming in to join the fray.

Maritime functions are transferred from one agency to another which gives away the country’s ability to understand its maritime industry. Why for example should the STCW Convention be administered by a labor agency which eventually was transferred to the maritime administration. Why propose to create a separate seafarers’ agency independent of the maritime administration? Look it up in Congress.

The very same issue that PD 474 aimed to resolve is as real until now.

What is it that needs to be done to finally integrate the maritime industry? How about going back to the objectives of PD 474 and situate it in the 21st century? There will be new demands, new players, expanded maritime services, extensive global standards and higher expectations — who knows, maybe PD 474 has not entirely lost its relevance.

Credits to: Atty. Brenda  V.  Pimentel

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