One lady who is making the rounds of the country’s maritime industry today is Merle Jimenez-San Pedro, chair of the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP). Encouraged by the election commitment of President Rodrigo Duterte to give attention to the maritime industry, Merle and the MMP are zealously promoting the adoption of a National Maritime Agenda (NMA), which will serve as the blueprint for achieving inclusive and sustainable socio-economic growth in the country through the maritime industry.
San Pedro’s engagement in the industry comes through the family-run Mariners’ Polytechnic Training Center Inc. (MPTCI) in Manila and the Mariners’ Polytechnic Colleges Foundation (MPCF) located in the Bicol region, where she holds the positions of president and executive vice-president, respectively. Her assuming top positions at these two educational facilities dedicated to providing maritime education and upgrading courses to the male-dominated merchant marine corps should not be construed that the proverbial “breaking the glass ceiling” has finally been achieved in this country. A self-driven “woman in maritime,” San Pedro took the posts not as a matter of course for the Jimenez-run maritime institutes; rather, her academic and educational qualifications, and her management skills and exposure to the industry make her well-equipped in running the operations of MPTCI and MPCF.
She graduated from St. Scholastica’s College where she finished Bachelor of Science in Commerce Major in Accounting and Bachelor of Arts Major in Sociology, which prepared her for the management job at the MPCF and MPTCI. She looks forward to completing her post-graduate studies on Philippine Studies at the De La Salle University. Asked how she expects to finish the master’s course with all the work laid before her, she readily quipped, “I have set priorities and for this year, my studies will have to take a back seat in the meantime. After all, I am gaining a lot more valuable knowledge and exposure with what I do now”.
This lady is not one to be boxed in with stereotype roles. She consented to lead maritime industry organizations with predominantly male representation. These include the Philippine Association of Maritime Training Centers (PAMTCI), where she served as president for two terms (2006—2010) and where she now holds the position of vice president for Luzon. She is one of the dedicated women officers of PAMTCI who will rise, without being obstinate, for the organization’s voice to be heard, and proves to all and nary that persistence pays off in the end. Her persistence in getting to the bottom about the ineligibility of industry stakeholders in attending meetings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as advanced by certain agencies led government to finally open participation in such meetings to PAMTCI and other maritime players. Such change in government policy was highly appreciated by industry as a major accomplishment although not many knew she was responsible for this turn of event.
An advocate of women empowerment
Last year, this indefatigable maritime executive added another hat in her head as she took on the presidency of the Women in Maritime Philippines (WIMAPHIL). Despite the odds in implementing the association’s projects due to leadership changes in partner agencies, San Pedro was encouraged by the openness and new perspectives brought by the incoming government officials. Where others are ready to give up on planned activities, she will reject calls to retract, but she would suggest “let’s re-trace our track and find another path.”
As she leads WIMAPHIL to its 10th anniversary this July 2017, she is able to again demonstrate women’s capacity to multitask. San Pedro remarkably exudes confidence as she leads the preparations for the association’s grand celebration, and at the same time deal with pressing matters concerning the MMP, MPTCI, PAMTCI all of which demand her utmost attention. She considers as her strength the ability to mobilize people and rally support and which she attributes to the passion she gives to any activity she sets her heart in.
Colleagues in the industry agree that dealing with Merle San Pedro means never having to say no, as she will persist until she gets an affirmative response. This lady means it when she says “never give up, women in maritime”!