One of the most pronounced changes at the STCW Office of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is the holding of regular dialogues with the industry players. Where before there was queuing not only of seafarers getting their certificates and documentation but also of stakeholders wanting to seek audience with the leadership of MARINA, a strong relationship with its clients dictates the current STCW Office’s direction.
During the consultative meeting on October 4, 2017 convened by lawyer Vera Joy Ban-eg, officer-in-charge, Office of the Executive Director, STCW Office, to review and revise the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10635 which designated MARINA as the single maritime administration in the implementation of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), the atmosphere was one of optimism and expectation. The stakeholders were all agog in articulating concerns that are rooted in the confusion brought about by the IRR. What mattered to those present was the opportunity to be heard and to be informed on what the others have to say on the subject.
They are all looking forward to changes in the IRR which for the past two years have been the source of misunderstanding and confusion.
The meeting was one of a series of meetings initiated by Ban-eg and already there were proposals dealing with both the substantive provisions as well as procedural matters of the existing IRR. The extensive deliberations being undertaken demonstrates a conscious effort to improve the information flow in generating inputs from those who are affected by the policies and processes being introduced by government. This was most apparent as stakeholders were allowed to speak out their positions, comments, views and proposals. To most who participated in the meeting, the initiative promotes transparency and subjects to scrutiny the implementation rules being introduced, unlike before, this is consultation not just for the sake of it.
The STCW Office has scheduled a follow-through meeting towards the end of October to consider the proposed revisions to the IRR. The extent of amendments will be dictated on the parameters which government will have to provide. A direction towards reducing detailed operational rules and guidelines in the form of circulars is an option, thus doing away with further revising the IRR whenever the need to amend the rules and guidelines arises.
Stakeholders should however calibrate their expectations. They should consider that government has to balance the concerns of the various stakeholders and in all cases, public interest takes precedence. What is important is for government to take notice of the position of the stakeholders for it to be able to find the most practicable response to industry concerns and at the same time clarify the position it takes on certain issues. After all, stakeholders’ buy-in is crucial to achieving success of any government policy.
Those maritime stakeholders who actively participated in last week’s consultative meeting expressed appreciation to that one meaningful dialogue with Ban-eg’s team!