Last week on the last day of the National Maritime Week celebration, the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) presented to Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) a draft National Maritime Agenda that provides a platform through which the maritime industry could support the 10-point economic agenda of President Duterte.
MMP recalls how in January 2016, then presidentiable Rodrigo Duterte positively responded to the call by maritime stakeholders to be given the opportunity to articulate its appeal for the adoption of a national maritime agenda. The call to action was addressed to all Presidential candidates as a frantic move for an industry that recognizes its ability to actively participate in nation building through socio-economic contributions yet remains unnoticed. Yes, it was only President Duterte who in a forum convened by MMP in Davao agreed to listen to the industry to which he finds attachment as a young boy having been born in a coastal city.
During the Davao forum, then Mayor Duterte animatedly expressed disgust for the absence of passenger ferry service in Davao and the long queue of applicants for seafarer’s documents. He pledged to stop corruption and incompetence in Government. The MMP did not only succeed in getting an audience with the soon to become President, the Movement got him to commit to adopt a national maritime agenda once elected.
Efforts to seek out the other presidentiables were unsuccessful despite the claim that the vote rich industry was eager to understand how maritime figures in their platform of Government. Unperturbed by the unavailability of the candidates, MMP reached out to them by making an appeal (“Panawagan”) published in the Inquirer in February 2016 for them to include the maritime industry in their Government plan should they win.
Cognizant of the need for a holistic policy framework that includes the multifarious concerns of the Philippine maritime industry was what pushed MMP to persist for the adoption of a national maritime agenda. In fact, the initiatives of the MMP continue beyond the election.
Engaging the stakeholders
Stakeholders’ consultations were convened to solicit inputs and views considered essential in coming up with a national maritime agenda. MMP brought together representatives of seafarers, shipping operators (in domestic and international trades), manning agencies, maritime training centers and education institutes, shipbuilders and maritime professionals such as naval architects, engineers and freight forwarders, among others. The exchanges and sharing of ideas and information become imperative in integrating the interweaving sectoral interests and concerns into one coherent direction.
Listening to the stakeholders speak of decades long challenges sounded like listening to a broken record worn out by repeated playing. At first there was some degree of indifference to the idea of having to raise the same problems over again. To some, what will make things different now compared with past Administrations? Yet, the optimism taken by majority of the stakeholders that things will get better for the industry under this Administration pervaded during the stakeholders’ consultative meetings.
Defining what constitutes the maritime industry is a matter that is not easily answered, Often, it is defined from the context of sea transport and the associated activities related to it. Figure 1 is a representation of the major sectors that were engaged in crafting the national maritime agenda.
Moving forward, working together
Conclusions drawn by the stakeholders were not new, such as rampant corruption and the ineptness of those in government, engendered by incoherent and fragmented policies and regulations. The never-ending squabble for turf despite pretenses of goodwill among government agencies has resulted in inefficiency in the delivery of public service. Multiple inspections and lengthy processes in documentation is an issue that needs to be stopped.
There was also recognition of the need for the various sectors to work together while maintaining diversity in business pursuits. There is no room for the “to each his own” viewpoint, rather, moving the industry towards a unifying vision that will bring closer the country into achieving the elusive aspiration of an inclusive and sustainable socio- economic progress must serve as the guiding principle for everyone. This means extending the gains of economic growth to those in the bottom of society through contributions attributable to the maritime industry.
A roadmap to guide where the industry must head and how to get there in a coordinated manner is what the national maritime agenda aims. Attaining success and reaching the vision is contingent on the industry’s ability to muster the cooperation of everyone in putting up a national maritime agenda. Thus were the circumstances and events that transpired in the efforts to have a draft national maritime agenda.
Figure 2 encapsulates the national maritime agenda.
The national maritime agenda is by no means final until government adopts it. Soliciting inputs of government as a major stakeholder has started with dialogues with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
The biggest boost came with Transportation Secretary Tugade’s support for the initiative plus his commitment to the proposed convening of a Maritime Summit to serve as the stage for the adoption of the national maritime agenda.
To most in the industry, commencement of a process by which an integrated and holistic national maritime agenda shall be formulated and adopted is an achievement realized during the first 100 days of the Duterte administration.