By Ligaya Caban
A rarely seen move, holistic and surprising from a government agency — that’s the defining package from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in hosting the year’s maritime week with industry stakeholders and regulatory agencies.
Three fora lead the professional workshops, viz:
- Usapang STCW Forum — (1)Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel, June 26; (2)Heritage Hotel, August 24; (3)Midas Hotel, July 21; (4) same venue, September 20.
- MIDP Maritime Manpower workshop at Midas Hotel, September 26.
- Republic Act 10635 IRR Revisions, City Garden Hotel, Manila, October 4.
This October, MARINA has separate meetings with the Maritime Higher Educational Institutions (MHEIs) and the Maritime Training Institutes (MTIs). These are augmented with parallel meetings in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Atty. Joy Vera Ban-eg leads the fora, as MARINA STCW-OIC Executive Director and concurrently, MARINA Deputy Director.
Ban-eg was Coordinator of Kalayaan Atin Ito Movement, a group launched May 15, 2015 to protect Philippine rights on Kalayaan Islands. The activists, mostly youth, also sailed December of the year to disputed Spratly Islands led by Ex-Comm. Nick Faeldon, Bureau of Customs.
The lady lawyer proposes, “Let us sit down together” and plan for the future of merchant mariners. She calls for concrete action, not just “drawing” (street slang for empty talk) but consensual expectations with timelines.
“You have to decide, we have to decide together” as Ban-eg encourages stakeholders to submit /present proposals, suggestions, position papers; there are no “right or wrong, all ideas are acceptable.”
While MARINA has structured the framework, MARINA will not singularly decide, Atty. Ban-eg assures. Instead, “it will be a listening time, we will listen to all of you” for what is best and doable within time and common resources.
As she searches for the “right love language,” Atty. Ban-eg cites themes of the national events: Connecting ships, ports and people (IMO World Maritime Day) and Water that surrounds us, unites us (Maritime Week).
In essence, “Be proactive, get the attention of everyone. Remind the leadership we are a maritime nation, that we should be the priority of the government (as) maritime is the most important manpower in this country” that will solve poverty and unemployment, to prosper as a maritime nation.
MARINA launched the 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP) 2018-2028 in the celebrations of its 43rd Anniversary at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, June 1st.
Administrator Marcial Amaro III admits MIDP is in pursuant to Presidential Decree 474 of June 1, 1974 by Pres. Marcos which also created MARINA. Section 5 mandates MARINA to “prepare and annually update a 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Program… (to) contain a rational and integrated development” for the approval of The President.
Amaro underscores “MARINA is not only a regulatory body governing the maritime industry but also created to help develop the industry.”
MARINA created an Advisory Council from a cross-sector of the industry: Atty Dolly Ohdate- President, Asiana Shipmanagement; Capt. Emerico B. Gepilano- CREST Assessment, Review & Training; Capt. Ronald Enrile- PTC Shipping /ANGKLA; Capt. Jess Morales -President, Integrated Seafarers (ISP); Capt. Jun Arcellana- Owners Rep, Norden Shipmanagement ; Mr. Emmanuel De Vera – GM, Wilhelmsen Shipmanagement; Engr. Sammy Lim- Chairman, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
Ban-eg seeks pro-bono volunteers with expertise as MARINA is short on personnel. While MARINA collects fees, all these are funneled to the public coffer and only Congress decides on what budget MARINA may spend in undertaking responsibilities of the agency.
The Dept. of Budget Management (DBM) prepares the budget for Congress to study, critique and traditionally pass. Congress may slash but it cannot increase the DBM-Presidential proposal. Atty. Ban-eg thinks DBM and The President are not convinced on the importance of the maritime sector in the national economy.
Hence, the need to “dramatize,” convince The President maritime is the solution to poverty “because only us can connect the 7, 600 islands. Education, training, licensing is on us” but we are seldom heard and “magmamakaawa (plead) and at times, papahiyain (embarrassed) when asking for more appropriation to undertake official tasks, Ban-eg observes.
MARINA has to wrestle with technicalities. So much changes are required by the STCW with Manila Amendment coming into force. While personnel could multi-task, the limited staff can only do so much in a full day. And if the budget is not spent, it returns to the General Fund, not overstay with MARINA for use when needed.
In answer, MARINA obligates unspent funds to the regional level to retain money for MARINA to use on added personnel and activities. This technique risks technical malversation. Also, hiring is not that easy as civil service requires so many credentials; forcing the growing usage of “job orders” as contractual tenure for specific duties.
On this solution comes two blockades: (1) Government policy to stop contractualization or Endo (slang for end-of-contract) and (2) DBM states no more job orders for 2018 but STCW alone is manned by 90% job orders.
Last September, a pittance of 63 plantilla positions were authorized, but really a job order having no security nor benefits, similar to volunteers from the private sector.
The maritime sector is represented in the Lower House by an elected PartyList, ANGKLA. Its first nominee is Atty. Jesulito A. Manalo with whom MARINA has been working well. Manalo could convince DBM and the House Appropriation Committee to give more, he being a respected Senior Member of the Camara Baja (House of Representatives).