The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) will present to stakeholders in April the 10-year Philippine maritime roadmap the agency is crafting as a key measure to advance and develop the industry.
The Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP) is “an essential undertaking to accelerate the integrated development of the maritime industry of the Philippines,” Marina administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro III said in a presentation during the “Sea Change” Conference organized by the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines and PortCalls on February 24.
The roadmap, he said, will include “practicable and coordinated government efforts (for the) early replacement of obsolete and uneconomical vessels, modernization and expansion of the maritime fleet.”
It will outline moves to enhance the country’s capacities in shipbuilding and ship repair; maintain and develop a reservoir of trained manpower; modernize ports; and protect marine reserves, resources and fisheries, and other related sectors.
Amaro said this is the first undertaking of its kind in Marina’s history, as the agency had previously been focused on regulating rather than developing the industry.
A maritime summit will be held in April to formally present the roadmap to stakeholders. There will be workshops in every region because “in this way, the comparative advantage of Davao, for example, in shipbuilding will be further strengthened.”
Reducing regulatory burdens
Another plan to develop the maritime industry is to reduce regulatory costs and burdens. For this, Amaro said Marina is actively participating in the National Competitiveness Council’s Project Repeal, which will develop a standard cost model for computing regulatory costs and burdens in government agencies.
Project Repeal aims to simplify administrative procedures and lessen cost of compliance for businesses and individuals by removing irrelevant or unnecessary issuances dating back to the Commonwealth and Martial Law eras.
Amaro explained that once a standard cost model under Project Repeal is drafted, “Marina hopes to ease doing business in the maritime industry,” as it intends in the next three years to cut by about 50% all of its regulatory costs.
Benchmarking best practices
The maritime authority also plans to benchmark best practices of maritime administrations in the Southeast Asian region, as well as in China, Japan, and South Korea.
Amaro believes shipbuilding, maritime training, and marine certification can be benchmarked with Indonesia’s, while ship registration, inspection and audit, admiralty laws, and gender development can be patterned after Singapore’s.
The results of this benchmarking will “be inputted in our continuing effort to make the Philippines as an important maritime country in the next 10 years,” Amaro said.
Marina will also lobby for the passage of legislative measures to expand the Philippine Ship Registry.
As an archipelagic country with a good location, the Philippines is a strategic ship registry, Amaro said. As of 2016, there were 119 vessels with a total gross tonnage of 2.680 million registered with the Philippine flag.
However, the country ranked only 33rd among ship registries in 2016, with 1.61% of total dead weight tonnage of the world fleet, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Comparatively, Amaro noted, Indonesia, another archipelagic country, is the 14th largest ship registry, while Singapore and Hong Kong rank fourth and fifth.
The registration of overseas ships in the Philippines has actually been declining since 2011. Amaro said the drop is due to the lack of attractive financial packages or incentives to entice foreign ships to register under the Philippine flag.
There are also too many unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed on policies that aim to expand Philippine registry. Likewise, there is unfavorable legislation that relates to ship mortgage and that treats maritime-related cases as ordinary civil actions; hence, the need to create Admiralty Courts in the Philippines.
Another drawback is the absence of a viable financial scheme to support measures to acquire new ships for use in trade in international waters, noting that ship construction is a capital-intensive endeavor.
Boosting Philippine ship registry
Philippine-registered ships also register poor performance in Port State Control inspections, Amaro said.
In the next few months Amaro said Marina will urge legislators to approve, “probably with some amendments,” bills which call for the reorganization and restructuring of the country’s ship registry and which encourage foreign investment in seagoing vessels.
Marina is also preparing for two important audits. One is the European Maritime Safety Agency audit this year, which will determine the fate of Filipino seafarers seeking to work on EU-flagged ships.
Another is the International Maritime Organization Member State Audit Scheme. Under this scheme, Amaro said IMO now mandates all member countries to implement and respect instruments of conventions such as the Safety of Life at Sea and Maritime Pollution. The Marina chief said there are still 30 IMO conventions that the Philippines needs to ratify before 2021.—Roumina Pablo