MARITIME stakeholders recently convened to ask for the swift installation of the vacated administrator post of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and its deputies, especially in the office of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) which governs Filipino seafarers worldwide, claiming that it can cause ‘leadership vacuum’ in the government agency tasked to oversee the workings of the entire maritime industry in the country.
In a forum, dubbed as ‘Quo Vadis, Maritime Industry?’ held in January 31, 2018 at the Manila Yacht Club, Manila, members of the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP), comprising of top personalities from the manning and training agencies, academe, maritime labor unions among others, they are calling the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte for the immediate installation of MARINA Administrator; Deputy Administrator for Operations and Deputy Administrator for Planning.
They explained that the industry is in a serious predicament, since the replacement of dismissed MARINA Administrator Al Amaro III, in the person of Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, will be officially taking-over in April 2018 upon his mandatory retirement from the military service.
President Duterte announced last January 22, in an event in Compostela Valley the appointment of Guerrero as MARINA Administrator.
“This situation has created a worrying vacuum in leadership at MARINA. With the absence of an immediate Administrator at the helm of MARINA and no officially appointed MARINA Executive Director for STCW at present except for an interim officer-in-charge and concurrent Deputy Director, there exists a delicate situation of a leaderless MARINA that could be destabilizing or even fatal to the maritime industry and to the country as a whole if not properly and promptly addressed.” said Merle Jimenez-San Pedro, Chairperson of MMP.
MARINA right now is being supervised by an officer-in-charge (OIC) in the person of Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary Felipe Judan, a post in which he is not appointed and only given limited authority to sign documents and oversee the daily routine at MARINA.
San Pedro said that roughly four months without MARINA Administrator and Deputies would mean a great catastrophe, since no one will run the industry, especially to Filipino seafarers that brings billions worth or remittances to the government coffers, and no one to address the problems hounding the said industry.
“The Philippines as a maritime nation is grappling with explosive problems rooted from regulatory issues with IMO and EMSA aside from its local problems on the ground. Our whitelist standing is precarious as we struggle with non-compliances. We have been eased out from our long-occupied niche to play only second to China as the world’s leading providers of competent seafarers. At this point, a weak, foundering MARINA is the least we need if we are to timely address these serious issues,” San Pedro also expressed.
She further noted that “as a maritime nation, our economy is principally fed by the maritime industry; it is our lifeblood. We could not afford to be complacent if our ranking as a seafaring /maritime nation becomes eroded among the international community of maritime countries.”
One of the murky issues that are unresolved is the issue between the Philippines and international maritime regulatory bodies such as International Maritime Organization on STCW compliance.
They claimed that the continuing standoff on the audits conducted by European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) whose official results have yet to be made public, with MARINA issuing, although hastily and seemingly without much inspection, an outbreak of memorandum circulars as it tangles with Commission on Higher Education (CHED) over policy directions in maritime education and training, have sent the maritime sectors reeling in confusion and uncertainty that is weakening its very existence.
The Philippines have failed the EMSA assessment in the compliance of STCW Convention in its consecutive visits here.
The MMP members in consensus said that to address directly the findings of the Philippine Independent Evaluation and the EMSA evaluation by producing the copies of the following documents: Philippine Report to IMO; Philippine Independent Evaluation Report; Corrective actions to the findings of the Philippine Independent Evaluation; EMSA Evaluation Results and Corrective Actions to the findings of EMSA evaluation.
Military man in the industry
When asked if how they feel that a military man to assume post in MARINA, the group claimed they cordially welcome and support the President’s decision to appoint General Guerrero, but since he will be retiring third week of April, they said that indeed the maritime industry is in deep predicament.
“I believe that the President has his own agenda and it is his prerogative. But the one seated in Marina should not be after the corruption, but should be competent. I believe that he would install people that would guide him in running MARINA. And we want it NOW!” according to San Pedro.
Earlier, Duterte had extended the term of Guerrero until April 24, 2018. Guerrero was supposed to have retired from military service since he already reached the compulsory retirement age of 56 last December 17.
Guerrero, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class of 1984, will be among the growing list of retired military men serving in the government.
Also during the said event, the group signed an agreement for the immediate call for action and they will be sending it to the Office of the President thru DOTr Secretary Arturo Tugade, to tell the President that they want the vacant post in MARINA be immediately filled.
The members of the MMA are San Pedro as chairman; Engr. Felix M. Oca President, Philippine Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI); Capt. Arsenio C. Padilla Jr., President, Philippine Association of Maritime; Capt. Gaudencio C. Morales, Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP); Ms. Arhleen Romero of the Phil. Maritime Research, Studies & Services (Phil-MRSS); and RAdm. Adonis B. Donato, President, OSM Maritime Services, Inc.