The House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation (COTr) has created a technical working group (TWG) that will further review two bills filed that would enable the Philippines to fully implement international maritime conventions ratified by the country.
COTr chairman Edgar Mary Sarmiento, in a hearing on December 11, approved the motion to create a TWG to review House Bill (HB) No. 333 filed by Pangasinan 3rd district representative Rose Marie Arenas and HB No. 5222 by Cagayan De Oro 2nd district representative Rufus Rodriguez.
Sarmiento suggested a further review of the two bills after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) objected to their passage, the only one amongst the concerned agencies present during the hearing to do so.
Batanes lone district representative Ciriaco Gato, Jr. then motioned for a TWG to be created to give the concerned government agencies “sufficient time to fully ventilate their objections and suggestions” on the two bills.
The TWG will be headed by MARINO Party List representative Carlo Lisandro Gonzalez.
HBs 333 and 5222 seek to provide a maritime code on the effective implementation and enforcement of international maritime instruments to which the Philippines is a state party.
These are the International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS 74); International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, and its Protocols of 1978 and 1997 (MARPOL 73/78); Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs), 1972; International Convention on Load Lines 1966 and its Protocol of 1988, as amended in 2003; International Convention on the Tonnage Measurement of Ships (TONNAGE) 1969; and all other international instruments, codes, recommendations, procedures, and guidelines implementing or applying these conventions.
During the hearing, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration expressed full support for the passage of the two bills.
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Port Operations and Services Department manager Lilian Javier, on the other hand, said HBs 333 and 5222 have no specific details on the implementation of MARPOL, where PPA has a part in implementing, “so we see nothing objectionable.”
PCG Coast Guard Legal Service commander Capt. Ramon Reblora, meanwhile, said PCG commandant Joel Garcia “told me to express the vehement objection [of PCG] to the passage of the [bills] on the ground that your Philippine Coast Guard is already performing the function of port state control, marine environmental protection, as well as marine casualty investigation.”
“We should not reinvent the wheel,” Reblora quoted Garcia as saying.
MARINA officer-in-charge Narciso Vingson, Jr. noted that part of the Philippines’ responsibility as an IMO member since 1964 is to adopt international maritime conventions by making them part of the country’s national laws and enforcing all of the provisions contained therein.
“Although the Philippines already ratified the said conventions, the country’s implementation remains relatively weak [because of] the lack of national legislation enforcing the provisions therein,” Vingson said.
Enacting laws implementing the conventions is also important as the Philippine will undergo an IMO audit in October 2021. The IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS) will set out to determine how well the Philippines, as a member state of the IMO and its Council, gives full and complete effect to its obligations and responsibilities contained in a number of IMO treaty instruments.
Vingson added that MARINA had been anticipating passage of similar bills filed in previous Congresses and in preparation had held workshops to draft implementing rules and regulations to ensure timely implementation once the bills are enacted into law.
DFA assistant secretary and Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office head Generoso Calonge said their department also welcomes and fully supports the passage of the two bills.
“We could not overemphasize that in order for us to maintain our membership in the Council, we should be passing these laws and implementing them fully…,” Calonge said, referring to the IMO Council to which the Philippines was recently reelected as a member under category C. – Roumina Pablo