During the stakeholders’ consultation on the draft National Maritime Agenda (NMA) last week, I had a chance to talk to one of the retired merchant marine captains who expressed his frustration on how the maritime industry had been sidelined by government. While he is now engaged in the deployment of seafarers on ships trading in international routes and at the same time leads one of the major manning organizations, Capt. Rodolfo Estampador has been dealing with the same government maritime agencies since when he was a young cadet and merchant marine officer.
Without mincing words, Capt. Estampador cited how in the past five decades he dealt with the same problems and issues that were identified in the draft NMA. It could only mean that in the past half century, the maritime industry, specifically the seafaring sector, has not moved forward.
In a more introspective tone, he intimated that unless stakeholders become more forthcoming in giving back to the industry that has helped them achieve the success they have now, it will be difficult to push for a cohesive maritime industry. Nonetheless, he appreciates what the Movement for Maritime Philippines initiated and added his voice to those who gave their support to getting the NMA pursued. During the stakeholders’ meeting, he unceasingly nudged his fellow retired merchant marine officers and the leaders of the various organizations to agree with the direction the NMA is leading to.
My association with Capt. Estampador started when I was with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and I remember him as one of those outspoken leaders of the seafaring sector. It is impressive to see him remain as enthusiastic in speaking for his fellow seafarers. In fact, he has not lost that fire as when he asked the Administrator upfront what the MARINA’s priorities are for the maritime industry.
During the quick on-the-side conversation with him, I gleaned this new perspective: there is a tie that binds seafarers regardless of age, time and place. They will always take that opportunity to better the standing of their fellow seafarer.
This in fact is the message that we gathered from the merchant marine officers who were present during the stakeholders’ meeting – to remain steadfast in finding a way to resolve the challenges which confront the active seafarers. That they consider having a national maritime agenda as an option to realizing this goal inspires the others who also expressed willingness to join the advocates for the NMA.