What if President Duterte gives the same attention to the country’s maritime industry as he does on the war against drugs?
His campaign for the presidency was hitched to the mantra of ending corruption, criminality and illegal drugs. He is making good his commitment against these maladies which for so long have been striking the very core of Philippine society, from those who are clustered in high stone-fenced subdivisions to those who inhabit the mosquito-infested and tattered shanties in urban and rural settlements.
Maritime stakeholders, on the other hand, are still hoping the President will soon take note of the role the industry plays in achieving inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic growth for the country, and that he will launch an aggressive campaign to enhance maritime awareness by the wider population. Coming from the coastal city of Davao, it must be easy for him to recognize that shipping is an indispensable link in the country’s transport chain, that crosses over the distance between the islands, the bridge that connects people.
Let me venture on what President Duterte will do once he trains his attention on the maritime industry.
First, he shall issue a directive to all concerned agencies for them to formulate and adopt a national maritime agenda that will define how the maritime industry can help achieve inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic growth. In addition to this instruction, the President shall invite maritime stakeholders representing the various sectors to agree on a national maritime goal that will serve as guiding principle in pursuit of their respective sectoral objectives.
Once industry buy-in is ascertained, the President shall enjoin all agencies charged with maritime functions to stop corruption at all levels by adhering to the basic principles of good governance. This means upholding and maintaining transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public service. With his tough stance against corruption, clear and reasonable regulations and processes are expected to be issued, and maritime functions ably discharged by competent and honest public servants.
With the awareness that the maritime industry can generate jobs enough to absorb the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW), the President will request Congress to undertake the required legislative reforms and his economic managers to introduce fiscal and tax incentives for maritime activities. Priority bills will include those on the subject of Philippine-flag registration, ship mortgage, and tax holidays for shipping. Likewise, he will consider as priority rationalizing maritime functions through the designation of a single maritime
administration which will address overlapping functions among government agencies.
With increased investments in the maritime industry, more jobs are generated which in turn will mean a corresponding increase in the demand for manpower with maritime skills and expertise. The President will then instruct the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to ensure the K-12 program amply covers preparations for acquiring maritime skills or profession. TESDA shall be one main facility for enhancing the opportunity for the returning labor force.
The above action list captures what the maritime industry anticipates the President will do once he recognizes the important attributes of an archipelagic country and how to optimize the maritime industry’s capacities to step up efforts in realizing social inclusiveness. These are action steps industry stakeholders put together in a National Maritime Agenda and which they anticipate President Duterte will adopt.
How long the wait will be? One hopes it will not be much longer.