MARINA chief, 4 others face graft, plunder raps

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Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) chief Sonia Malaluan and four other present and former executives of the Authority are facing graft and plunder raps for allegedly allowing mostly Chinese-owned dredger ships to operate in the country’s waters.
  • Maritime Industry Authority chief Sonia Malaluan and four others are facing graft and plunder raps for allegedly allowing mostly Chinese-owned dredger ships to operate in the country’s waters
  • Malaluan and company reportedly allowed the continued operation of 22 foreign dredger ships beyond the two-year period allowed under MARINA Circular No. 2011-04
  • The complaint was filed this week before the Office of the Ombudsman by the United Filipino Seafarers

Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) chief Sonia Malaluan and four other present and former executives of the Authority are facing graft and plunder raps for allegedly allowing mostly Chinese-owned dredger ships to operate in the country’s waters.

Malaluan and company reportedly allowed the continued operation of 22 foreign dredger ships beyond the two-year period allowed under MARINA Circular No. 2011-04.

READ: Extension of validity of special permits issued under MC No. 2011-04

The complaint was filed this week before the Office of the Ombudsman by the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), represented by their chairman Nelson Ramirez.

Aside from Malaluan, the four others charged were Rowena Hubilla (MARINA domestic shipping office director); Marc Pascua (MARINA – National Capital Region director); Hernani Fabia (former administrator); and Jabeth Dacanay (former chief of staff of the Office of the Administrator).

The five are accused of violating Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and RA 7080 or the Plunder Law.

The UFS accused the group of granting special permits (SPs) allowing the foreign dredgers to operate beyond the maximum two-year period, in effect giving them the opportunity to operate in perpetuity.

The effectivity of the SPs were issued in 2022 when Fabia was still MARINA administrator, then extended by Malauan despite lack of basis.

Under MARINA regulations, SPs can be granted to foreign registered ships as long as their validity does not exceed two years. Beyond this period, the foreign ships must register under the Philippine flag.

UFS said Philippine ships could perform the same dredging activities as the foreign vessels, aside from other functions like conducting seismic surveys, drilling rigs and other maritime projects of the government and private shippers or consignees.

MARINA supposedly reclassified the foreign dredgers as highly specialized vessels, thereby circumventing the law.

Because they were allowed to continue operating, the government was deprived of some P66 million in revenues, at the rate of P3 million per vessel.

UFS pointed out that the total uncollected fines exceeds the plunder threshold of P50 million.

The UFS stated that the respondents must also be held liable for administrative offenses of grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

READ: MARINA extends validity of special permits for foreign ships