Maritime Industry Authority: Looking back, moving forward

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(First of two parts)

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On Wednesday, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) will be celebrating the 42nd anniversary of its creation. The establishment of MARINA through Presidential Decree No. 474 issued on June 1, 1974 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos was grounded on the recognition of sea transport as vital to the growth of the Philippine economy. PD 474 was hailed as an innovative response to the problems besetting the maritime industry as to its adequacy and efficiency in transporting people and goods, undeniably the concern of any archipelagic country. This was heightened by the technological advances in communications and shipping which were rapidly being introduced and adopted across the globe.

The pith and marrow of PD 474, also known as the Maritime Industry Decree of 1974, is that of accelerating the “integrated development of the maritime industry of the Philippines.” It defines the milestones for the industry and the action plan to achieve these, general in its terms yet, definitive in its vision. As early as 1974, the Philippines laid down its national maritime policy as stipulated in Section 2 of PD 474. The increase of the country’s productivity and trade were seen as highly dependent on the provision of economical, safe and efficient sea transport; thus, the need to develop a competitive Philippine merchant fleet.

The same law recognized the complexity of putting up a merchant fleet as this requires parallel initiatives towards the development of related sectors to complement shipping; therefore, a definition of what constitutes the maritime industry was offered in Section 3.a. The matter of shipbuilding and repair/drydock which find direct relevance to ship ownership and/or operations are highlighted, so are stevedoring, freight forwarding arrastre and similar enterprises.

Seafaring or manning of ships is not mentioned in Section 3.a. but is separately treated in Section 2.a, Section 12 and Section 13 which highlight the importance of seafaring and the employment of other maritime human resources by calling for the development of a reservoir of trained manpower. These provisions augment the general jurisdiction and control of MARINA over all persons and entities in the maritime industry (Section 4).

In order to accelerate attainment of the maritime industry objectives, the MARINA was mandated to prepare a Ten-Year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP) which shall provide for a rational and integrated development of the maritime industry. The MIDP which shall be annually updated needs Presidential approval.

PD 474 is the product of the genius of a Government vilified for many things in the past, but definitely not in the maritime field. Most of the stipulations in the law still find relevance in the present maritime world, 42 years after its issuance. This means MARINA may have to retrace the mainspring of its existence in order to discard doubts of possible omission in the performance of its original mandate. After all, amendatory laws passed and Executive Orders issued after 1974 are but amplification of the Authority’s mandate given under PD 474.

When passing judgment on MARINA’s faithfulness to the provisions of PD 474 and all succeeding laws which give it additional functions, one must bear in mind the many challenges the Authority had to surmount. Milestones achieved must be commended; failures and disappointments expressed and conveyed with offer to assist.

MARINA for its part should be more forthcoming in articulating its programs and initiatives, strengthen cooperation with stakeholders and uphold honest and sincere service to its clientele and the public at large.

To MARINA and its officials and employees, cheers!

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