ANOTHER government official was accused on Thursday of excessive travel – Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Marcial ‘Al’ Amaro 3rd – who, a group of seafarers claimed, made 11 foreign trips just this year.
The United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) wants the Senate to investigate the “globe-trotting” Amaro, citing a complaint made by the Alliance of Marina Employees (AME).
UFS President Nelson Ramirez said Amaro defied President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to stop unnecessary junkets under the guise of official business.
“I am not surprised by these accusations. I have noticed this in the past. Every time he’s needed for consultations, his staff said he was abroad for official trips. Are all of these official junkets? Senate or Congress must intervene with this mess,” Ramirez told The Manila Times.
Amaro denied that his foreign trips were junkets, explaining to ABS-CBN News he personally needed to attend overseas meetings with maritime regulators.
He vowed to resign if there was evidence that his trips were junkets.
Amaro’s aide, Mon Cruz, said the Marina chief did not abuse his privileges.
“There are a lot of important international meetings to attend to and he is not only representing seafarers but the country, like the meeting with IMO (International Maritime Organization) under the United Nations,” Cruz said.
He noted that the Department of Transportation and Malacañang itself had alerted Marina of a move to oust Amaro, even sending instructions to prepare a statement explaining the “bits and pieces” of the administrator’s travels.
“We are now preparing the statement to be submitted to the office of spokesman Harry Roque and it’s up to them who will disseminate it,” he said.
Ramirez claimed the country’s maritime industry was sagging, considering the fact that “we no longer hold the reputation as the number one seafarer supplier in the world.”
“We need a good leader in Marina that should be there 24/7 to at least resolve the maritime industry crisis,” he said.
Ramirez pointed out that the travels of Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor chief Terry Ridon and commissioners, who were fired by the President earlier this month, paled in comparison to Amaro’s.
“That’s why we are asking for the President to act on this controversy.” Ramirez said.
The Manila Times obtained a copy of the Marina employees’ December 21 letter to President Duterte, where Marina’s “captain of the ship,” Amaro, was described as an “absentee administrator” because of his frequent junkets.
The group claimed this resulted in the demoralization of Marina employees and stakeholders.
The letter, received by the Office of the President on December 22, claimed Amaro “has defied President Duterte’s policy and humble pursuit of frugal governance and modest lifestyle by going on foreign junket trips for 11 times in 2017 alone.”
“Mr. President, Mr. Amaro is a disgrace to Marina and it does not deserve an administrator with this jet-setting lifestyle. We humbly pray and ask that he be replaced immediately lest he be allowed to cause more harm and damage to our beloved institution,” the Marina employees’ group added.
Conflict of interest?
Duterte was also urged to scrutinize the “overlooked” appointment of Amaro for a possible conflict of interest.
The Marina chief used to be an executive of one of the President’s campaign contributors, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. President Dennis Uy.
“While we attach high regard to the stature of Mr. Uy as a responsible businessman and a young up-and-coming tycoon with diverse business interests in petroleum, logistics, retail, casino and leisure and educational institutions, our apprehension is premised on the possible conflict of interest of Mr. Amaro, who used to be Mr. Uy’s vice president for ship management in Chelsea Ship Management & Marine Services Corp., a subsidiary of Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc.,” the letter stated.
“Mr. Uy has business interests in Meridian Maritime Training Center, a maritime training school he acquired through Udenna Development Corp. Mr. Dennis Uy likewise acquired the controlling interest of the biggest domestic passenger shipping company 2GO, which is under the regulatory control and supervision of Marina. This makes Mr. Amaro, as administrator of the government agency tasked to regulate shipping companies and maritime educational institutions, a necessary accomplice in the building of Mr. Uy’s empire,” the letter added.