Impressed and Distressed: PANAMA ON MARKETING BLITZ
By Ligaya Caban
The Panamanian Maritime Authority (PMA) reaffirmed support to the Philippine manning industry after concluding a five-day visit, some call a “technical audit” which may be taken as an affront on the host country’s sovereignty.
Properly, the visit is just an audit of centers Panama have authorized and accredited, but not an “audit” of the Philippines. Otherwise, is shall be criticised as the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for laying bare the country to the European Maritime Safety Administration (EMSA) “audit” rather than on IMO-STCW request.
PMA Director General Juan Maltez said his team is “pleased” at how training centers here are preparing seafarers with updated facilities and courses. Maltez impression was after visiting about ten training centers, medical facilities and clinics which issue Panamanian medical certificates.
He adds, “They have good Infrastructure, technology, simulators but need to enforce few things that need to be corrected, especially in terms of the quality of instructors.”
Maltez explains they are mandated by Panamanian law to inspect training centers and medical facilities “of countries” that are Panamanian accredited. He has not made known the final results as they are not allowed prior to assessment in Panama.
He paid a courtesy visit to OIC-MARINA Administrator Narciso Vingson Jr. to reiterate Panama’s cooperation with our Flag State administrator.
Mum as expected.
The veteran merchant marine captain did not make mention nor issued comments on major allegations of syndicated corruptions on the issuance of certificates for Panama by those locally accredited, like:
- Postings of incoming staff of the Panama Embassy and Consulate General in the Phil
Lhuana P. Lopez whose “somewhat controversial” opinion on irregularities on such issuance, are based on her concern on the massive loss of revenue for Panama, and violation of ethics and Christian principles.
- Lawyer Clarissa A. Moran was assigned to the Dept. of Maritime Training to “authorize, audit, and monitor training centers in Panama and outside the borders (meaning, those in the Philippines, too).
She discovered anomalies and met with Deputy Director Cecilia Hernandez who did not act. Later, Moran allegedly received a message from General Director Jovanni Gonzales, “Don’t disturb the hornet’s nest.”
AMP General Administrator Jorge Barakat would not be involved in what he termed as “administrative issue”.
Later, the three officials of the Dept. of Decrees (headed by Samuel Correa also muted) of the General Directorate of Seafarers of AMP were dismissed when they denounced the alleged scheme before the Office of Primary Care of the Attorney General’s office.
Atty. Moran’s term elapsed and was not renewed.
- In 2017 alone, figures that floated is US$70 to $135 per certificate, estimated to $6.6-million (loss to Panama) from about 49,000 illegally issued here.
Three names in the Philippines keep cropping up on the anomaly, allegedly prepared to pay the “penalty” and possibly not accredited anymore. This may be containment, a whitewash; more so the visiting team seeks other training centers to be accredited for a new and clean slate, perhaps.
With the visiting team of Capt. Maltez are Engr. Adrian Perez, Regional Chief; Angie Echevers, Quality Management System Chief and Ivan Crespo, former Panama Ambassador to the Philippines.
Another team is also doing the rounds, headed by Ivan Crespo, former Panama Ambassador to the Philippines; now VP for IBS, a training outfit based and accredited in Panama. Both offerings are almost the same, except IBS may consider the Philippine outfit as a “branch” as it cannot accredit for Panama, unlike Capt. Maltez who may officially act for Panama.
Maltez also made a courtesy visit to Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Dumagoso last September 9th. The Mayor has been quoted as for the creation of a city-owned maritime school, within the Pamantasan ng Maynila (University of Manila) since most maritime schools in the country are in private ownership and management.
Panamanian Ambassador to the Philippines Rolando Guevara said that in terms of shipping capabilities, the Philippines provides “manpower muscle,” while Panama, the “infrastructure sinew” vital in world shipping.
Panama has the world’s largest fleet of ships registered under its flag, with Filipino seafarers making up around 42% of the workforce.
With only more than 4 million inhabitants, Panama is also known to have the largest ship registry in the world, followed by Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Hong Kong and Singapore.