Proceedings of MBFs 107 & 108

The 107th Maritime Breakfast Forum (MBF) was hosted by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and held at Columbia Tower, Ortigas Avenue, Mandaluyong City, on 25 Nov 2015. Undersecretary EDWIN LOPEZ (Operations and PPP, DOTC) welcomed the attendees on behalf of SEC. JOSEPH ABAYA.

COMMO. CARLOS L. AGUSTIN (Ret.) (President, Maritime League) chaired the Maritime Forums.

ENGR. ENRICO FERRE gave a comprehensive presentation, reporting on the 21st APEC Transport Ministers Meeting held in Cebu City on 5-6 Nov 2015. The meeting was preparatory to the APEC Meeting hosted by Roberto P. Gothong. The theme was “building inclusive economies, building a better world.” There were four main thrusts: (1) advance inclusive transportation; (2) sustainability; (3) innovation; and (4) women in Development. All interested in the details may view his presentation at www.mddb.apec.org.

COMMO. GILBERT RUERAS (PCG, Ret), President of the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) gave a presentation on PADC. The main points were: PADC was created in 1973 by virtue of PD 286; and has the following functions: (1) design, assembly, manufacture, and sale of all types of aircraft ; (2) modification, overhaul and repair, including inspection and repair (IRAN); and (3) operate air transport service.

COMMO. RUERAS stated that PADC had assets amounting to P257M in 1973 which has declined to P94M in 2014. PADC has manufactured or assembled 44 BO105 helicopters, 67 Britten Norman Islanders and 24 S211 jet aircraft. Currently, PADC handles the following: (1) depot level maintenance of aircraft (accredited by CAAP); (2) fabrication; (3) operation of facilities, including Hangar 3. Going forward, COMMO. RUERAS says PADC shall work on (1) seaplane conversion; (2) Robinson R22 and R44; (3) UAV R&D; and (4) introduce the Cube Satellite.

COMMO. RUERAS mentioned that President BENIGNO AQUINO III for vetoed a move to abolish PADC earlier this year, and promised that he would strive hard to answer President Aquino’s challenge.

The Chair said there are many talents PADC could harness from, including the son of a former CSAFP (Gen CLEMENTE MARIANO), who gave a presentation on locally-built UAVs during an MBF hosted by the Metro Manila Shipyard Association in Navotas in 2013. The Chair encouraged COMMO. RUERAS to write about his vision for PADC in the Maritime Review magazine.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) representative reported that there were only a few Laglag Bala incidents in the ports, and thus was not a serious problem at all. The PPA Police, PCG and the OTS are all on top of the situation in the PPA ports.

Director LEO L. AUSAN of the Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office (MOAO), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) gave an update on the Philippines’ arbitral claims vs. China. In brief, (1) the Philippines’ case passed the test of jurisdiction and admissibility; (2) the Philippines has made 15 submissions; (3) out of 15 submissions, 7 were accepted; and (4) the Philippine Legal Team headed by the Solicitor Gen. HON FLORIN HILBAY would introduce the case and present arguments to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague on 24-30 November 2015.

The 108th MBF was hosted by and held at DFA’s MOAO Conference Room located in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City on 15 Jan 2016. On behalf of the SECFORAF and the DFA, USEC EVAN GARCIA welcomed the attendees. He stated that the UK and other naval powers have a Naval Club that monitors the status of the Navy fleet and acts as a pressure group, in addition to business and social activities. This could likewise be the role of the Maritime Forum. The Forum should be at the forefront to push for shipbuilding modernization and development, and arms manufacturing.

USEC EVAN GARCIA stated that artificial islands developed by China are now in use, albeit symbolically but the matter of “dual use” appears to be something open, as seemingly some arrangements are in the offing with other concerned countries; he provided some information on the arbitral tribunal developments, and noted that Vietnam is procuring some military hardware from Russia. He referred to the article in the newly distributed Maritime Review (January-February 2016 issue), page 13 where his former colleague, Atty. RAMON A.P. PATERNO, former Senior Legal Counsel of IFC, wrote an excellent Article, “Philippines vs China: Arbitral Claims under UNCLOS” and he said it should be required reading for all. He reiterated the need for the Maritime Forum to be heard, and call attention of the government to certain important issues that affect Philippine national security and development.

ASEC BENITO VALERIANO introduced the DFA briefer, Director LEO L. AUSAN, who gave an update on the recently-completed RP-RI (Philippines-Indonesia) bilateral EEZ boundary negotiations. Director AUSAN stated that there is a: (1) Palau-Japan EEZ Agreement; (2) need to address the RPRI Agreement dated 23 November 2014 on fisheries. Amb. ALBERTO ENCOMIENDA commented that although the bilateral negotiations with Indonesia took 2 decades, he was glad it has finally concluded. The Chair reminded PCG about previous developments on the archipelagic sea-lanes, and suggested that PCG consider an update for the next forum.  Amb ALMOJUELA discussed the recent RP-RI Border Patrol issues.

The Chair introduced former NSA Sec ROILO GOLEZ as a TOYM Awardee, former Post-Master General, and Congressman. He said the Maritime Review magazine features on pages 14-18 Sec GOLEZ’ lecture on The SCS/WPS Dispute.

Sec GOLEZ related his own personal experience in 1971 when the PN landed troops on Kalayaan, then on to 1994 when China built their initial structure on Mischief Reef, and in 1999 when he delivered a privilege speech in Congress and warned that China might occupy Scarborough Shoal in due time.

“China’s military contingents are already positioned in various reefs, islets and rocks of the South China Sea Region, particularly in the Spratlys and the Paracels. Scarborough Shoal is just one more step forward in their bid to secure full control of the world’s second busiest international sea lane.”

Sec GOLEZ showed photos and maps on the progressive development of the illegally-constructed structures, obviously for military use. He explained the strategic and tactical implications of the Chinese moves.

Other aspects covered by Sec GOLEZ included: (1) US freedom of navigation patrols; (2) Arbitral Tribunal case against China; (3) militarization of China’s artificial islands; (4) “Legal experts now say Manila has a good chance of success based on the court’s rejection of China’s arguments during the hearing on jurisdiction. Such a scenario would mark the first time an international court has intervened in the  matter – something Beijing has been trying to avoid for years.

The Chair called upon Mr. GLENN TONG, Director of PROPMECH, for a presentation on shipbuilding. Mr. TONG introduced two colleagues – EDWARD ANTONIO and LINUS TIU. Together, they presented: (1) PROPMECH’s capabilities; (2) current contracts and accomplishments in government projects (with PN); (3) difficulties with the laws and regulations, particularly the New Procurement Act which makes it impossible for local companies to compete due to the “track record” aspect; (4) current tie up with DAMEN of The Netherlands and Norway; (5) some recommendations to the Government going forward.

The Chair wanted to know what the Forum and the Maritime League could do to push for more local procurement of ships for use of the Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies. Detailed recommendations are needed for this. USEC EVAN GARCIA commented that in his opinion this presentation is the single most important one for that purpose. He asked that maybe the community could be informed more on DAMEN’s capabilities. MR. HERMINIO ESGUERRA, Chairman of HERMA Group, commented that the Government needs to support the shipbuilding industry more. The Chair agreed, adding that we ought to apply more pressure as a group. He suggested to the shipbuilders to expedite the organization or reactivation of the former PHILSAR, which he understood is a work in progress under the MMSA. USEC EVAN GARCIA repeated his concern that this momentum should continue and expand. The Chair offered to assist the shipbuilders in getting attention of the Government.

The House Committee on Transportation’s ATTY. JORGE SARMIENTO announced there is a House bill amending the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 (RA 9225). The Chair requested a copy of the bill so the Forum can review it for possible recommendations.

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