Competitions bring the excitement, the dazzle that organizers would kill for.

This truism is reflected on this year’s maritime celebrations, no more as aptly described as bongga, the street word for the great and the gaudy. MARINA captains this year’s events, then alternating yearly with the Coast Guard and then, the Ports Authority of Manila and Cebu.

For starter, there are two fora in two venues: the one-day forum at Midas Hotel and full load at the PICC for another forum, courtesy raffles, quiz bee and exhibit and fellowship at night). Over 80 exhibitors participated, entrance free-of-charge as MARINA picked the tab.

The sky over the Quirino Grandstand was lit with aerial fireworks, as folks were treated to a free musical concert courtesy of Smart, the telco.

Associations and individuals were cited for meaningful contributions to the industry during the Recognition Night that followed.  MARINA Administrator Marcial Amaro III led senior officials of the Authority in presenting the awards. Never a dull moment for aside from the excitement of the awardees, the guests were entertained by top-rate event professionals.

Administrator Amaro was the principal speaker at the 22nd National Seafarer Day, ushered in by a parade and awarding of outstanding maritime students, oratorical and art contest winners.

Arguably, this National Maritime Week is a benchmark of all celebrations since 1996. There were so many activities, even to the regional levels in parallel with that of MARINA, also in collaboration (often on initiative) with private maritime stakeholders.

Next year.

Year 2018, celebrations are to be led by the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) under the Office of the President reporting directly to the Executive Secretary. Of course, MARINA and other government agencies are expected to pitch in, given NCWC expertise is on security and less on maritime industry overview.

Opinions appear split; some doubt whether NCWC could organize events relevant to most concerns of the industry. Others are optimistic core issues will reach faster presidential attention as NCWC is mandated to report one month after the celebrations.

While President Ramos in 1996 “broke the ice” on maritime concerns, experts are almost unanimous presidential interventions have been on form rather than on substance.

Proclamations address basically on who leads on what date, often reactions rather than proactive to the demands of maritime industry on domestic operations and international competitiveness. It is almost just crossing the T’s and merely skin-deep for public consumption.

The usually rational cover-all-bases mentality is suspect as hodge-podge in reality. Duterte proclaims “Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month,” oozing with nationalism and cultural pride with NCWC as overseer.

His Proclamation 316 of 14 September 2017 “synchronizes” the National Maritime Day, International Coastal Clean-up Day and Fish Conservation Week transferring the latter from the third week of October to  the third week of September, almost right smack National Maritime Day or slightly before the World Maritime Day (by amending Proclamation 176-Series of 1963).