A Philippine delegation is currently in London to campaign for the country’s re-election to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council. The Philippines is currently a sitting member of this council, which serves as the executive organ of the IMO and is responsible for supervising the work of the organization.
The council undertakes the functions of the assembly between sessions (in a span of two years), except the function of making recommendations to governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention, which is reserved for the assembly.
There are 40 council members elected biennially under three categories:
Category A has 10 states representing the largest interest in providing international shipping services. Current members are China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.
Category B has 10 states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade. Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden are in this category.
Category C consists of 20 states not elected to either Category A or B, but which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election to the council would ensure the representation of all major geographic areas in the world. The Philippines joins Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey here as members.
The Philippines has been a council member for more than 10 years. Seeking and winning a seat is probably every IMO member-state’s aspiration. The real race to winning a council seat, though, only happens in Category C, as only 10 states can vie for the 10 seats in Category A and in Category B. For Category C, there are more than 20 states that have filed their candidacy.
Elections will take place next week, and I can imagine the lunches and parties being thrown in London by those running. As there are only eight days of the assembly sessions to election day and more than 30 countries are hosting dinners and parties, it will be like hopping from one party to another every night.
Several times I was able to attend assembly sessions and council elections, and it was delightful to feast on each country’s authentic food, with guests also treated cultural to shows. And no one leaves the party venue without receiving gifts and tokens from the host country.
And there are those who will not miss the parties thrown by their favorite hosts, although this doesn’t necessarily translate to getting votes. Thailand and Indonesia are favorites in the Southeast Asian group. I really cannot comment on the others, as these are the only two countries I was able to join, besides the event hosted by the Philippines. With the night freezing, I prefer being tucked in my hotel bed by 10 p.m.
I learned that the Philippine delegation consists of high-ranking maritime transport officials. What could be the strategy in the Philippine campaign, if there’s any? I ask this because in the last election in 2015, the country’s standing was No. 18 out of 20. That was a close call; the Philippines has always landed in the first 10 slots. Was this dismal result in 2015 analyzed by the delegation in order to put up a good campaign effort? How many of the 173 member-states (assuming all members are present) has committed to support the Philippines?
Still, regardless of its standing in the election, as a country that prides itself of being the seafaring capital of the world, we expect the Philippines to retain its seat in the IMO Council!
Good luck, Maritime Philippines!