PALLIATIVE OR POLITICAL WILL
Marino World Editorial Pool
This is a revisit of concerns raised initially on “Stakeholders Agitated Over Marina” (May-June 2019 issue). This sequel is less guarded, with more open expressions --- spark and fire --- from more minds of the private sector. We have to include positions of apologists and vested interests to comply with the ethics of fair journalism.
Much is expected: proceedings were taped and recorded as announced by Chairman Dante La Jimenez of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) of the meeting at the Manila Yacht Club, July 25th.
Program flow: highlights of the fourth State-of-the-Nation-Address (SONA), PACC overview and targets, introduction of the attendees, lunch was followed by discussions of main concerns.
Jimenez is the famous activist who founded Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), his main credential for being appointed chairman of the PACC by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
His opener is engaging, cueing the audience on himself: two maritime schools in the Bicol region, a training center, a manning agency, immersed in maritime as was his father.
He is only 15 months on the Duterte wing but have served other presidents, the Navy and the Coast Guard auxiliary. Government is a lot of sacrifice, even totally divesting himself of business interests that may comprise his duties to the Republic.
PACC needs experts, even non-lawyers. He announced his alter ego as Atty. Manuelito Luna, former VACC legal adviser, and now designated as commissioner for the seafaring sector.
High-profile attendees from the private sector include:
RAdm Adonis Donato, Chairman, OSM Maritime Services
Capt. Oscar Orbeta, Chairman, Joint Manning Group (JMG)
Mr. Mike Estaniel, Director, JMG
Mr. Miguel Rocha, President, CF Sharp Crew Management
Capt. Leopoldo Tenorio, CEO for Operations, Marlow Navigation
Engr. Tomas Orola, President, Orophil Shipping
Dr. Elizabeth Salabas, VP, Orophil Shipping
Ms. Karen Avelino, Pres., Association of Maritime Training Centers (PAMTCI)
C/E Antonino Gascon, VP, PAMTCI
Capt. Ramil Limocon, Director, PAMTCI
Mr. Jo Even Tomren, Deputy Managing Director, Norwegian Training Center
Engr. Nelson Ramirez, President, United Filipino Seafarers
Per Arne Waloen, Senior Surveyor, Norwegian Maritime Authority
The 4th SONA of July 22nd welded common consciousness on the proceedings.
Duterte highlights the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, reduced the order into a word: simplify.
“We are our own tormentors --- addressing the Filipino people --- we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak and the voiceless.
We find corruption everywhere in government with every malefactor watching his cohort’s back in blatant disregard of his oath… Even the language has evolved to soften the wickedness of the criminal act.
“For the Boys”, “sponsoring an event” or what-else-have-you. No amount of euphemism can trivialize or normalize betrayal of public trust or any other criminal offense. It is an injury laced with insult. It is both a national embarrassment and a national shame.”
“Catharsis is what we, individually and collectively, need to do today – not tomorrow but today. Self-purgation followed by the resolve to do what is right and proper… “
Orbeta underscored a problem is, “… the lukewarm attitude of shipowners” in hiring Filipino seafarers who file unreasonable insurance claims, like ambulance chasers. POEA data confirm the reduction of jobs from 442,820 in 2016 to only 378,072 in 2017 and 330,859 by 2018.
No one even knows what happened to the position paper on the subject prepared by an insurance group addressed to The President.
Estaniel believes the anti-ambulance chasing law by Cong. Manalo “requires more teeth.” Seafarers seldom get the final decision, restitution has climbed to $30-million making Filipino seafarers less competitive in the world market, affecting training, education, remittances and other allied industries.
Rocha hits between the eyes: “Yes, it’s a very, very big problem” quoting a principal took off Filipinos from more than 38 vessels, a loss of 800 jobs.
He believes the problem roots with the arbiters of Natl Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and Natl Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB). That’s where the corruption is. This quasi judiciary agencies are making schemes that cripple shipowners.
Rocha appears to project the Philippines is no longer the only source of manning. Other nations are rising up, studying our weaknesses to capitalize on. Some even fund scholars to experience and study our ways and systems.
Rocha categorically states that principals would love replacing Indian, Burmese, Indonesian hands with Filipinos --- if we show fundamental changes in corruption and juridical practices. We can regain our 33% of the manning market, stop at 20% the downspin.
Tenorio reveals the Supreme Court reversed three cases, ordered to return money received by seafarers. They cannot, having spent (by them, lawyers, “agents”) the windfall. There are now three civil cases, avoidable if the law should demand money be placed in-trust until the final disposition of the case, a procedure the NLRC vehemently opposes as anti-poor.
Ramirez shared his experience as an arbitrator in the NCMB. Four dissenting opinions which were affirmed by the Supreme Court, a total disability granting P80,000. “… (T)hen after few months, he applied again, and after few months he came back again and filed again another total disability.”
He mentioned Rocha’s case of a seafarer awarded P12.5-million because a tip of his finger was pressed. Many cases are frivolous, NLRC and NCMB suspect in that P100-150k bribe may earn one a favourable decision.
After all, these agencies have increased from P10,000 to P100,000 reversal fee.
At the 2018 CrewConnect Global Conference, two presentations were made by Atty. Imelda Barcelona, CEO/Pres-Agile Maritime Resources and Lubeca Protection and Indemnity Phils which confirm the sad realities.
“Our Supreme Court (SC) in numerous cases have overturned and set aside rulings of the NLRC /MVA on serious errors of law. The SC decision may be issued 3 to 5 years after NLRC /MVA rulings became final and executory.”
As legalities snore, money paid to seafarer and lawyer has vanished. How can that money be recovered? NLRC says yes; in fact, has provided the procedures on how to.
Barcelona and Lubeca both ask the big question, WHERE? Where will you find the seafarer, the money? Can there be action on money paid to the lawyer of about 50-60% of the award?
“The victory in the SC is reduced to a paper victory.”
Avelino accepts Circular 2019-05 as effective for EMSA and IMO as PAMTCI become STCW compliant. But the interpretation on what should be done is debatable, high-risk to business.
The later checklist requires training centers to purchase very expensive equipment or buy again for the new specs. This held up accreditation processes and business operations.
The kinks are on these, viz:
- Serious players will comply but await clarification
- Yet, there are training centers accredited without compliance
- They can sell at P2,500 what we must at P12,000 because PAMTCI complies
- Guidelines are so slow which delays deployment.
- Principals are critical against delays, over our business losses
- ETOs are not issued for electricians already on board and serving as such.
- Our ETOs are losing jobs to other nationalities.
- The MARINA has been advised of the problem. But it seems there is a group in “unofficial” control.
- Admiral Vingson may find time to double-check.
- And finally issue an unequivocal statement
Oca in informal talks insists that agreement must be honoured (pacta sunt servanda) and not forgotten (like making “incompetency” a major concern). PAMTCI appears prone on invoking TROs from the courts; PAMI is content on writing letters at the moment. He visualizes a joint paper by JMG-PAMI-PAMTCI.
Oca sees it as a stumbling block as they are “… incompetent, they look into their interest and not necessary the interest of the country.”
At the formal meeting, Oca believes that on higher education, “we have almost the same problem with MARINA in terms of the development of the policies and the guidelines.” Professionals should be given more roles in the formulation.
Oca refused to sign a MARINA STCW paper mandating domestic onboard training for 36 months, at least. PAMI clarified MHEIs require just one year cadetship. But the agency’s technical group removed that proviso.
MHEIs monitored and/or visited should be given
- A bill of particulars of the finding
- Corrective measure/s required
- Acceptance, rejection or amendments of the compliance
Schools are just threatened with suspension, course reduction or outright padlocking. Worse, audit inspectors do not write everything but confides “somebody will contact you” on other items that should be done.
Luna is gravely bothered and suggests to invoke motu propio (on its own accord) to act to aver an impending crisis which must be led by MARINA, POEA and DOLE, aligned with The President’s public commitment.
Chairman Jimenez is assigning Luna who believes the stakeholders were given “shabby treatment.” Luna pledges “I will not sleep from this responsibility. I will immediately move and proceed accordingly based on the law…”
Jimenez did not wave the flag; instead committed in a chilling mode: “Don’t worry, gentlemen. Of course, will do our best. We will make sure this ambulance chasing will stop. I promise you that, I promise you that…”
As an asunder, he repeated, “incompetence is corruption.”
He cleared the pathway, announcing his approach.
- File affidavits so PACC may acquire jurisdiction
- Subpoena the suspects, persons of interest, friends of the court
- Once subpoena is served, investigate.
Spicing the mantra of i-will-resign-if, he invoked foreign stakeholders to file the affidavits and forego the blah-blahs (idle talk). ”Help yourself, help us, help the industry.”
Jimenez also requested Admiral Donato to talk to all sectors, form teams and alliances to dig into the truth and actionable findings.
Reloading batteries, Ramirez wants heads to roll: replace the MARINA administrator, deputies, STCW head; revamp the regional directors as “… one-half of your time you will be protecting yourself” from these “corrupt officials.”
“On ambulance chasers I think the best way is to have a law that can assure foreign shipowners that they will have a fair and legal trial when it comes to arbitration of maritime labor cases.”
Waloen picked his words carefully being an Advisor at the MARINA on QMS development for the STCW implementation and MHEIs courses including accreditation, monitoring, surveillance and training familiarization of the new staff and new responsibilities.
He essays the Philippine-Norwegian Business Council had a similar anti-corruption meeting about four years ago. “Norwegian law on anti-corruption is extremely strong and very severe. They’re requiring companies to comply in Norway and abroad.”
He clarifies Norwegian companies or persons involved in corruption abroad, the CEO in Norway will go to trial. He promised to give Jimenez an English version of relevant Norwegian laws.
Short of accepting there are corruptions, Waloen straddled on the fence that MARINA and its top honchos “… are trying to solve the problems but they are in a system that it makes it very hard for them.”
He believes Vingson “is in a very delicate position. I don’t think he is corrupt.” He cannot solve everything at once, he needs support from the stakeholders.
Waloen supports MARINA and hopes for no leadership change given the upcoming EMSA audit in about six months. Things come to a halt with the shuffle, all staying “kool” as the roulette spins on operational executives, of trust and of will.
The European Commission (EC) with its own leadership and political woes (Brexit, NATO and States at its fringes, US and China trade) may change the audit schedule and focus.
Tomren is more partial, quizzical whether “incompetence is corruption.” Whether one may be prosecuted as incompetent. Tomren will also not vote for a PAMTCI suit against MARINA as his NTC is a Foundation and apolitical.
As of August 14th, PAMTCI has not filed a case and continues to dialogue with Admiral Vingson and MARINA senior staff.