Home » Maritime » Proposed PH Maritime Code faces refiling in next Congress

The proposed Maritime Code of the Philippines will likely miss congressional approval, a victim of low priority in a Congress more pre-occupied with the mid-term elections in May 2013.

According to lawyer Jay Batongbacal, a member of the core group/technical working group (TWG) of the proposed Maritime Code, the House Committee on Transportation last month unanimously approved the final consolidated bill, endorsed by at least 30 congressmen.

But if the measure does not pass, the bill will be reintroduced at the opening of the next Congress in July 2013, he said.

“Since the Code was already reported out of the committee, passed through the TWG and has broad support of the industry, it is expected to not be as contentious next time,” Batongbacal explained to delegates of the recent Philippine Maritime Law Annual Conference jointly organized by the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines and PortCalls.

He said the completed draft only includes Book I, which covers enactment of standards, and not “the more contentious” Book II, which covers allocation of powers and functions as well as financial incentives.

Book I’s salient features include Philippine Ship Registry provisions that allow for use of foreign-owned ships in overseas trade without turning the country into a flag of convenience, and the establishment of detailed ship safety standards, giving full effect to maritime safety conventions.

It expands the maritime industry’s access to credit, reduces documentary requirements for ship mortgages, makes registration easier, and clarifies types of maritime liens and mortgages. It also provides for simpler enforcement in matters of foreign liens and mortgages.

On marine insurance, the code promotes protection and indemnity cover or insurance for pollution, salvage and wreck removal and substantially re-enacts the marine insurance provisions of the Insurance Code.

It updates the law on charter parties to accommodate contemporary commercial practices and to provide for four different types of charter party: voyage, time, volume contract of affreightment, and non-vessel operating common carrier.

In addition, it calls for the establishment of an admiralty court for maritime accidents and a Maritime Arbitration Commission for commercial and employment disputes.

Maritime industry stakeholders have been pushing for the passage of the Maritime Code for the last five years. But after four Maritime Industry Authority administrators, two terms of Congress and two Presidents, the measure has yet to be passed.

In 2007, the Norwegian Agency for International Development gave the country 2.25 million Norwegian Kroner or an equivalent of $413,391 (P18.17 million) for the crafting of an omnibus maritime law. The Philippine government failed to comply with some of the grant’s requirements, including submission of a draft code to Congress in 2008.

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