By Coca H. Strobar

Then Davao Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte had declared, “the development of a national maritime agenda will form part of my government platform to achieve an inclusive economic progress” as a campaign promise. He supplemented this with maritime concerns in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), the first incumbent president to do so.

Hence, a National Maritime Summit is being pushed by the Movement for Maritime Philippines for an Executive Order declaring a National Maritime Policy with a corresponding National Maritime Agenda to highlight the vital role of the maritime industry in economic development.

Preparatory to the Summit, MMP met last December 18th with the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) Secretariat at its center at the Coast Guard (PSG) headquarters at Port Area, Manila.

PCG is the organizing “host” for the 2018 many official maritime events which was cascaded to NCWC with expertise in security but less on maritime industry, many believe.

The meeting at NCWC Secretariat is followed by a two-day (January 29-30) brainstorming and planning sessions in Tagaytay City with leaders from sectors of the maritime industry.

Pre-summit sector workshops schedule: April, Merchant Marine (with sub-sectors like shipping, ports development, logistics, human resource, ship building, fishing); July, Environment and Tourism; by September, the Summit itself.

These hews well with priorities of MARINA’s 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP) recently launched with major fanfare. But it is an “initiative” based yet on Presidential Decree 474 of June 1, 1974 of Pres. F.E. Marcos. This is 43 years back that also created MARINA.

Duterte’s Proclamation 316 of 14 September 2017 establishes the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) with NCWC as overseer.

MMP views are to be presented to DOTr Secretary Tugade but shelved to MARINA, in turn, already enamored with its own MIDP made public during its 43rd Anniversary at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, June 1st.

MMP Chairman Merle Jimenez-San Pedro is worried things could just be on a merry-go-round, as a cat chasing its tail. She believes unless leaders clearly grasp the whole picture, implementation will just be patch work and nothing defining.

Right now, priorities are on “operational issues,” like day-to-day concerns. MARINA frontliners complain if they cannot struggle from small stuffs, there is no sense asking them to level up.

The Philippines is already renowned as a maritime manpower. Maybe, the next step is to be a maritime power. A National Maritime Agenda could accelerate things, given the big leap to unite, to synergize for win-win results for all stakeholders.