PH maritime industry faces many challenges in 2017, beyond

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Although the Philippine maritime industry has a lot of potential for growth, stakeholders agree that the its biggest challenges lie in the people’s mindsets, the way they perform their duties, in infrastructure, and the policies that regulate activities within the industry.

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Because of the country’s strategic geographic location, the Philippine economy has large growth potentials and opportunities in shipping/liners (both domestic and international); ship building and ship repair; maritime tourism, fishing; and other marine-related industries, which create jobs and generate employment. This is in addition to the world-class quality of marine power it produces, which in turn results in around 700,000 Filipinos actively pursuing seafaring jobs and professions all over the world. They contribute to the economy by sending back home billions of remittances annually.

Despite these opportunities, there are still many areas for improvement. The industry faces great challenges that hinder it from becoming competitive and at least at par with its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Some of these issues are graft and corruption, bureaucratic delays, incompetence, obsolescence, lack of policies, lack of infrastructure, and others. These problems must be properly addressed and resolved in order for the country to successfully see progress and development through it.

Being one of the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 7,000 islands and more than 36,000 kilometers of coastline, the Philippines can become a major maritime country. With good governance, sufficient funds and productive use of available resources, the Philippine maritime industry can positively contribute to the achievement of the zero to 10-point national agenda of the current administration. These include inclusive growth and socio-economic development, as outlined under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). This medium-term development plan is further geared toward AmBisyon Natin 2040, which articulates the Filipino people’s collective vision of a “Matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay para sa lahat.”

It also accounts for the Philippines’ commitment to the new 17 social development goals (SDG) by 2030, adopted by United Nations member-nations during their General Assembly in 2015.

The eradication of poverty still tops the list of SDGs, clearly an unmet goal from the 2015 eight millennium development goals (MDGs). The mission of contributing to the alleviation of poverty and ultimately improving the socio-economic condition of millions of Filipino people is a tall order but not an impossible feat.

According to Marcial Amaro 3rd, the Maritime Industry Authority’s (MARINA) current administrator, the agency has prepared a 10-year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP 2018-2028), which contains rational and integrated development initiatives for the industry. It banners a societal goal of inclusive socio-economic development through the Philippine maritime industry. This goal is anchored on three key national perspectives: maritime advocacy; maritime strategy; and maritime agenda. Its activities for the next ten years will focus on the development of the following sectors: maritime administration; domestic shipping; overseas shipping; maritime manpower; ship building; ship repair; and ship breaking and fishing.

Amaro said the MIDP, which they expect to be approved by President Rodrigo Duterte within the year and rolled out in 2018, will help put Marina in the right strategic direction so that they can successfully advocate for enabling policies, push for appropriate reforms, and promote harmonious and productive inter-agency and multi-sectoral cooperation and coordination that will exponentially boost the socio-economic potential and business opportunities in the industry.

He said the task of transforming MARINA and the mindsets of the people and institutions with which it conducts its business and delivers its services are among the most formidable challenges that the agency faces. “You cannot make changes overnight when stakeholders are so used to the old and traditional, yet ineffective and sometimes corrupt systems that can cast doubt to the sincerity of the agency,” he said. “One cannot teach what one does not know.”

Investment in human resources

To address the issue on competency and achieve organizational excellence, one of MARINA’s priority tasks within the MIDP framework is to invest in its most important assets—its human resources —through capacity building and continuous training activities and programs.

“Once the public is able to acknowledge that we are doing our job effectively and efficiently, we would earn their trust thereby the integrity of MARINA and those behind it will be upheld,” Amaro said.

Incidentally, MARINA’s approved budget under the General Appropriations Act for 2018 amounts to P969.37 million, up by 20 percent from its P801 million 2017 budget. There are also other efforts and initiatives that come from the private sector -on maritime concerns, particularly in the shipping industry.

The Mindanao Chapter of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) recently held the Mindanao Business Conference 2017 from September 7 to 9. One of its outputs is a list of policy recommendations, which was submitted to President Duterte, also in attendance at the event. Foremost in the list of resolutions provided by the Secretariat of the Oro Chamber Business Development Center, which hosted the three-day event, is the request that urges the Department of Transportation and the Philippine Ports Authority to rehabilitate, expand, and upgrade the Philippine ports to international standards to ensure full implementation of the Foreign Shipping Co-Loading Act of 2015 or Republic Act 10668.

The active participation of business people in the swift and effective implementation of applicable policies and laws is worthy of commendation. This is in addition to the millions of investments poured in for the sector.

To successfully navigate the sea of challenges and achieve the desired goals and outcomes, stakeholders (the government, i.e., executive branch, legislators, policy makers, regulatory and oversight agencies, the investors and business people, the consumers and the general public) agree that they should be able to forge a unified and harmonious relationship, measured not only by increased business and profit but also by the moral principles that guide the undertaking of authorities’ respective roles in the industry.

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