Capt. Gaudencio “Jess” Morales bought last August a Cebu-based Metro ferry from Atty. Augusto Go, president of University of Cebu (UC), the biggest maritime school in the region.
Morales is a veteran mariner respected for his “pay-back” socio-civic projects. His business ventures are diversified, prominently in maritime, real estate, finance and services.
Many consider the deal was based more on ethics than money.
Morales was one of the thousands marooned Wednesday at the Ninoy Aquino Intl Airport when a Xiamen Air plane skidded off the runway. But he was able to pay Saturday, the first of the many bids.
Atty. Go was offered PhP10-million more, prominently by a Cordova, Cebu cooperative with a close intermediary. Edges were already negotiated but Go is a man of his word: the first to pay gets the ferry.
Actually, it was not just on that technicality alone but of over two decades of partnership. Morales’ manning agencies have sponsored cadets from UC for 20 years (since Metro Ferry started operating).
The multi-million package takes six ferry boats operating at 100-300 capacity 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., logging 40 turn-arounds. To perk the deal, the vessels were renovated, dry-docked to be sea worthy.
The captain used guts more than the usual due diligence mantra. He grabbed the opportunity, instead of founding a new company which may have to gestate for decades.
This one gives early returns: Pier 3 Osmena-Lapulapu route takes more than 10,000 pax a day, another 10,000 to 15,000 wait north of Mactan and requested by the Mayor to be served.
Morales has commissioned four ships from shipbuilders in Cebu, one already being constructed to ply the channel between Mactan island and the Cebu mainland.
Other players are attracted by the huge market, also an immediate solution to the horrendous traffic along major roads and on the two bridges linking Mandaue City with mainland Cebu and Lapu-Lapu City with Mactan Island.
Service deteriorated under Go occupied with other business as he battles advancing age. Hiring more people practically unsupervised proved unproductive.
Morales plans to transfer 20% shares to the ISP Coop, the whole equity should the coop gathers the necessary funds. After all, he bought the ferry for the coop.
The coop has more than PhP100-million subscriptions; applied for increase in capitalization to PhP200-million in just three years.
The Integrated Seafarers of the Phil (ISP) continues its lead in the reintegration of seafarers, a fact recognized by the government agencies.
Morales now chairs the Center for OFW Reintegration and Empowerment (CORE), a newly-formed organization of seabased and landbased agencies.
Morales was former president of the Phil Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Director of Phil Japan Manning and Consultative Council. He has earned major national recognition from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
He founded the Gaudencio C. Morales Foundation for the less fortunate through education, livelihood, community development, scholarship grants, donations and relief operations.
Morales seeks a change in the mindset of the Filipino seafarers and their families, including maritime stakeholders, that the seafaring profession may overarch to other ventures with proper reintegration as written on his book, Gabay ng Marino.
He also wishes seafarers should retire at 55, giving way to fresher legs as the senior seafarers enjoy life on land joined with his loved ones.
Government reintegration program lacks serious monitoring of what is happening to this profession. But there is interest in NRCPO, OWWA and Congress. ISP shall always provide the flash point.
Morales’ venture in Metro Ferry gives him a window to introduce the international standard of management in domestic shipping, in line with the MARINA MIDP modernization program.
Morales sincerely believes he can leverage private assets with public resources. He explains “… we can borrow 10x our subscription.” He points to Landbank, DBP, PNB, all supportive of cooperatives instead of catering to just a family or power block.
Capt. Morales holds to the faith that once seafarers are empowered, dreams maybe realized.
And realized big, as his did — from a poor farm boy to the wealth he shares well for his pay-back socio civic commitments.