A congressional delegation from the Philippines cited the country’s significant role in global maritime affairs during a visit to Washington D.C. late last month.
Representative Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes, chairman of the transportation committee, led the delegation, according to the Philippine Embassy in Washington.
Together with Representatives Jesulito Manalo of Angkla maritime partylist, Jonathan Dela Cruz of Abakada partylist and Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu 3rd district, the group traveled to Washington from April 27 to 30 in hopes of highlighting the Philippines’ role in the global maritime industry.
The statement from the embassy noted that the third district of Cebu hosts a growing shipping industry while the Philippines continues to be the fourth largest shipbuilding country in the world.
The country is also the world’s leading provider of maritime professionals as it accounts for 30 percent of global merchant vessel manpower.
Gerardo Borromeo, CEO of Manila-based Philippine Transmarine Carriers and Board Director of the US-Philippines Society, said that commercial shipping is often referred to as the “invisible industry.”
He said that the Philippines’ substantial and evolving role in maritime affairs proves that it can “move the world.”
The meetings were organized by the US-Philippines Society, which is composed of top US diplomats.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. expressed his gratitude to the delegation for their efforts in further strengthening Philippines-US relations.
“As maritime nations, the Philippines and the United States are working together to preserve maritime security. Both countries recognize the current challenges as well as the opportunities and we thank our congressional delegation for promoting further areas of cooperation especially in the area of maritime training and ship repair,” he said.
On April 29, the delegation met with the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Matt Salmon (R-AZ), for a review of broad policy issues.
Other meetings on Capitol Hill focused on maritime affairs and included Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV), all members of the transportation committee.
Members of the delegation also participated in a public forum on April 29 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of Washington’s premier think tanks.
In his opening remarks at the forum on the Philippines’ Role in Global Maritime Affairs, Society Co-Chair John Negroponte emphasized that “the shipping industry is vital to sustained economic development and rising standards of living on both sides of the Pacific.”
Negroponte, formerly US ambassador to Manila, described a shared concern “for preserving the vast richness of aquatic resources and for maintaining unimpeded access to the major nautical highways facilitating trade in and out of Asia.”
Joe Cox, CEO of the Chamber of Shipping of America, highlighted the potential for Filipino seamen to take on positions of greater technical responsibility in the shipping industry.
Borromeo and Manalo said the delegation’s visit succeeded in fostering dialogue between Philippine and American legislators on “improving operating standards, enhancing cooperation on training and student exchanges, and exploring commercial opportunities in the Philippines for repair and maintenance of US naval and civilian vessels.”
In meetings outside Congress, the delegation exchanged views with the US Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen and Craig Bone of the American Bureau of Shipping.
An off-site tour of training facilities run by the International Seaman’s Union in Southern Maryland provided an opportunity for a first-hand view of the latest in training and processing procedures for American seamen.
Negroponte said the US-Philippines Society was delighted “to play a role in raising awareness of that role, in stimulating more discussion about global shipping in the 21st century, and exploring opportunities for both countries in one of the world’s most vital industries.”