(Second of two parts)
MARINA’s mandate under PD 474 makes it assume the role of “maritime administration,” which over time, was diluted as other Government agencies took on the quasi-maritime administration title, seemingly because of services extended to persons and entities engaged in maritime professions and businesses. After MARINA’s creation in 1974, laws were enacted and Executive Orders issued to either amplify the Authority’s mandate or take away some of its functions which logically should be discharged by the maritime administration.
Short of calling it the maritime administration, PD 474 has assigned to MARINA the attributes expected of one. MARINA assumes administrative, social and technical responsibility over ships flying the Philippine flag, a commitment assumed by the country as party to the Law of the Sea Convention. The Authority makes sure that ships registered under the Philippine Registry of Ships comply with laws, regulations and standards pertaining to maritime safety, security and the protection of the environment from ship-generated pollutants. Add to this the all-important duty of ensuring availability of sea transport in the movement of people and goods within the archipelago and in the carriage of the country’s international trade.
In upholding public interest through the provision of safe, efficient, economical and reliable sea transport, MARINA carries out tasks which overlap with, though not necessarily eat up the mandate of other agencies. This overlapping of functions has been most pronounced in the aspect of maritime safety specifically in the education, training and certification of Filipino seafarers, the primary objective of which is to ascertain ships are safely navigated by qualified and competent crew. Said objective was subordinated to the country’s labor marketing plan which consequently excluded MARINA in the education, training and certification of Filipino seafarers, except for those to be deployed in Philippine-flagged ships in the domestic trade.
That MARINA’s maritime safety responsibility is complemented by its job generation function under PD 474 was conveniently overlooked. Without attributing blame to anyone nor to any agency, the aforementioned arrangement compromised the country’s access to the international seafaring market. RA 10635 is most welcome as it revived, though not completely yet, the confidence of the international shipping community on the Filipino seafarer’s competence. More importantly, the law confirmed that MARINA is the maritime administration, albeit only for the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) Convention.
Four decades into its existence, MARINA, rightly so, claimed in the draft Maritime Philippines Agenda 2015-2016 and beyond, its role as the Philippines’ maritime administration. Such claim could find recognition as when the Agenda is officially adopted by higher authorities. Too, stakeholders’ buy-in of the Agenda is presumed to have been solicited. Perhaps it is a good idea for MARINA to provide updates on the status of the Agenda, or better yet, present the scorecard on the performance targets therein stipulated to the incoming Administration.
Discharging the tasks of a maritime administration means acknowledging the mandates conferred on other agencies and finding convergence with that of MARINA’s. The prevalent stance among government agencies of protecting their respective turfs has impeded efforts of advancing coherent and harmonized maritime policies. As the maritime administration, MARINA must continue its call for a strong inter-agency coordination and cooperation, a critical element in achieving, at a much faster pace, the country’s maritime aspiration.