AT the stakeholders’ consultation meeting convened by the Movement for Maritime Philippines on the crafting of a National Maritime Agenda, the demand resonates: Update the Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations.
This reminded me of what MARINA Administrator Marcial Amaro III mentioned during the courtesy call of the Women in Maritime Philippines about updating the PMMRR 1997 as one of the agency’s priorities. It is a welcome initiative although it is not the first attempt to do so. More than a decade ago, there were efforts to update PMMRR 1997. It would be a big help to dig up the records of accomplished tasks achieved by the PMMRR Project constituted before; then the team charged to do the revision and updating will have something with which to start their work.
The existing PMMRR 1997 replaced the PMMRR 1976, which governed Philippine shipping prior to the transfer of the maritime safety functions to MARINA from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). Then and now, the same generic reason of having to incorporate new global standards and regulations that the Philippines has committed to implement and enforce applies. There is also the desire to upgrade the technical requirements to respond to demands for safe and convenient sea transport. One other reason is of course the fast pace by which technology changes the applicability and practicality of existing maritime rules.
I was a member of the team which drew up PMMRR 1997 and even at that time I had taken the position that updating what we crafted should start soon after the printing of the regulations for the following reasons: a) A number of the provisions needed further amplification, especially those that were lifted verbatim from international conventions; and b) New maritime standards and rules were continuously being formulated. The Philippines was still at that time (and up to now) struggling in transposing ratified conventions into national legislation and regulations. The PMMRR is a dynamic document and will always be a work in progress.
Existing conventions, such as the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974; the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978; and the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973/1978 have undergone further amendments. New maritime conventions, which the Philippines ratified such as the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 and the Anti-fouling Systems (AFS), have taken effect. Incorporating amendatory provisions and the requirements of recently ratified conventions into the PMMRR is expected.
Urgency in updating the PMMRR
For a country asserting the brand “Maritime Philippines,” putting up updated and well-structured and easily understood merchant marine rules and regulations is paramount. Given the much-peddled plan to promote the Philippines as a responsible flag-registry, the country must start with articulating a clear national maritime policy supported by a set of maritime regulations. Any ship owner or ship operator, as a matter of course will, before flagging his ships under Philippine registry, undertake an assessment of the regulatory regime. The absence of clear, transparent and consistent policies and regulations could discourage prospective maritime entrepreneurs.
Maritime transport remains the most economical mode of conveyance between islands in the Philippines and is therefore widely used by the population. Today, we are witness to the introduction of newly built ships in the inter-island routes and passenger traffic indicates preference for these new ships. The provision of shipping services is imbued with public interest, therefore the necessity of setting the parameters by which to ensure maritime safety, security, efficiency and environment sustainability through the PMMRR.
The PMMRR is intended to provide a comprehensive and coherent set of regulations that defines the rules of the game, i.e. from administration, technical and social obligations and requirements. It is an essential element in achieving a level playing field for industry players. Moreover, the PMMRR is a tool by which to curb corruption as clear rules narrows the exercise of discretion in its implementation.
We are optimistic we will finally see a PMMRR that is at all times relevant.