Maritime Wish List for the Duterte Administration

The administration of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte has started with a bang! (No pun intended) Not one, but quite a few.

It has impressed many, and may I say, including myself, who did not know him very well, and whose promises did not affect me when we first met during an AGFO fellowship at Camp Aguinaldo last year, before he even tossed his hat in the Presidential ring. One thing I regretted was, due to a previous engagement, not being able to accept his invite for a golf sortie in Davao, where he had an aide get our names for a wonderful golfing event, including billeting and round trip airline tickets. It did indicate that he had a lot of backers for the election, as that invitation must have required a lot of funds, and I recall that he did say “no” when someone asked if he was running for President.

We liked his bravado against corruption and drugs, but one thing that to me evoked some caution was his idea about federalism (attuned to his notion about the Muslim separatist movement), and aligned with this his belief in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) plan as conceived by the Aquino administration.

He is pursuing the federalism idea, and has plans to push through with constitutional change to achieve it (and perhaps carry on with changes that can make the BBL constitutional). He stated just last week that “the Comprehensive Agreement (CAB) has been signed”, when actually the CAB is by itself unconstitutional in its surrender of national prerogatives to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in many of its provisions.

The idea of a Maritime wish list brings to mind a most crucial development that challenges the competence or innovativeness of the Duterte administration: how to handle the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s awards to the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea. The international community lauded the President’s initial pronouncements on his cautious approach, fearing a perceived clash of China and the U.S. should Duterte take a hard line.

To me, having been a practitioner of Confidence Building Measures for many years, that is an excellent recourse, and his proposal to use (and acceptance by) former President Fidel V. Ramos as a special envoy is indeed a welcome development. In last week’s Chairman’s Page, I supported the idea of Joint Development, even advancing a possible activity which I furnished the National Security Adviser, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, for possible discussion in the NSC. That column was written prior to the PCA Decision, and Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio had come out with a statement that in his opinion, “Joint Development” is unconstitutional. This matter deserves serious consideration, and I think we can find a way to do it without conceding sovereign rights. After all, “thinking out of the box” is the norm of the Duterte administration, as we have just seen in the case of law and order, and drugs.

Let me now go to the other maritime interests.

Maritime wish list

The only President who actually had a maritime sense of development, in my opinion, is former President Fidel V. Ramos. He is the only one who, having really thought about the negligence of many years, decided to come out with a Maritime Development item in his “Leaf Frogging Strategy” for the 21st century that he introduced during the second half of his administration. It was entitled “Developing the Philippines as a Maritime Power” and he put the Secretary of DOTC, Sec Arturo Enrile at the helm of this cluster. I might say it was this role that converted Enrile, who was a retired army general, to be a maritime advocate.

I started with a DRAFT WISH LIST of 8, to be expanded to 10. After getting inputs from some Forum Members, I had the following:

1. MARITIME DEFENSE AND SECURITY

         Developing a Maritime Security Strategy

         Naval modernization

         Coast Guard modernization

         Support to the Coast Watch System

         Establishment of Naval and Coast Guard reservations at strategic places

2. SHIPPING, MARITIME ADMINISTRATION AND MARITIME TRADE

         Improving the Philippine Ship Registry

         Cabotage policy

         Improving customs administration

3. MERCHANT MARINE PERSONNEL (SEAFARERS) ADMINISTRATION

4. SAFETY OF NAVIGATION.

         Increasing ATON density

         PCGS Modernization

5. MARINE ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES

         Development of the National Marine Policy

         Establishing an Oil Compensation Fund

         LGU role in coastal environmental protection

6. SHIPBUIDING, BOATBUILDING AND REPAIR

         Exploring incentives for domestic shipbuilding

         • Developing an IACS-standard Philippine Classification Society

7. MARITIME COMMUNICATIONS

8. PORTS, HARBORS AND WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

         Enabling PPA, CPA and other Port Administrations to retain earnings for improved port infrastructure development

         Institutionalizing long range master plans for port development

         Providing a policy for developing waterfront tourism

9. STRATEGY FOR THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA AND UNCLOS

10. ENHANCIING SUPPORT FOR MARITIME TRANSPORT CONNECTIVITY

These would not be further developed, when Magsaysay Lines President and PISA Chair Doris Ho, a longtime colleague in the Maritime League, told me that she had her own ideas but talked to DOTR USEC Felipe A. Judan to oversee what we want to do, since another group is already underway along the task, and that is the Movement for a Maritime Philippines (MMP) under Leo J. Santiago. Thus, I sought Leo out, and got this update from him.

THE MOVEMENT FOR MARITIME PHILIPPINES (MMP) continues to conduct forum, dialogues, consultation meetings with various maritime stakeholders on the PROPOSED NATIONAL MARITIME AGENDA, which will be submitted soon to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who pledged to make it one of his priorities once elected to office.

The Group had a meeting at MARINA with all sectors present: PAMTCI, the Movement for Maritime Philippines. Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines, COMMA, AOS-Manila; MJAP, PAMIAIMS; FAME, PHIL-MRSS, JM; and PISFA. The Welcome Speaker was new MARINA Administrator Engr. Marcial Q. Amaro III, who disclosed his marching orders in 100 days from the President. He said like all appointees, he was made to submit plan of actions for the first 100 days, six months, and one year. He said he is into “housecleaning” at present and would welcome all the support of everyone to achieve the goals and his mandate as Marina Administrator.

Herewith is the account submitted by Leo J. Santiago, Maritime Forum and Convenor, Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) Discussion focused on the proposed National Maritime Agenda (NMA) as drafted by the group led by Atty. Brenda Pimentel. A copy was distributed to all those present and everyone was urged to give their comments or suggestions. Atty. Pimentel proceeded to discuss the detailed content of the proposed NMA one by one as some comments from the participants were also given response and/or got explained.

According to Engr. Sam Lim, they are interested in how the group would be able to incorporate the many issues and concerns of the various stakeholders in maritime. He mentioned that for their part under JMG, they would be ready with the “road map” of the sector that they were able to achieve after consultations and meetings with various manning groups for several months. He provided a copy of the “road map” format to MMP.

Mr. Ericson Marquez seconded Engr. Sam Lim’s comment and also sought explanation about how the Movement of Maritime Philippines would be presenting the agenda to the Duterte Administration. He asked what is the status of MMP in getting commitments from other sectoral groups and what kind of representation would MMP be with various organizations and groups involved in the project.

Meanwhile, Atty. Peter Aguilar of PISA and domestic shipping group reported that they were able to meet up with DOTC USEC Felipe A. Judan of maritime cluster, and who told them that the latter would like to consult or meet with various maritime sectors to know what they want to achieve or accomplish under the new administration. Aguilar said they would welcome the opportunity to meet with DOTC official as it is one big opportunity for every group or sector to be given a chance to air their sentiments and their aspirations.

Other comments centered on whether specific concerns or demands of every sector could be included in MMP’s presentation to the President and his concerned staff. It was agreed that all were welcome to send in their proposals before deadline so that MMP can include them complete with summary and required data. Capt. Jess Morales reiterated the need to get more convenors who can commit their group in the furtherance of common objectives.

It was noted that the National Maritime Agenda (NMA) would include: a national maritime goal: “An inclusive and Sustainable Socio-Economic Growth through the Maritime Industry. The vision — A Philippine Maritime Industry—serves as a backbone of the nation’s progress. The overall strategy: “Harmonize the various industry objectives/targets and put together a cohesive and clear maritime direction.”

Back to the agenda, Atty. Brenda Pimentel proceeded and discussed the proposed objectives, which she said consists of explanatory notes. She also said that is not yet final so more inputs from various groups are welcome up to the end of July 2016. Below are the objectives:

1. Institute good governance in all maritime industry-related agencies/entities;

2. Attract investments in the maritime industry;

3. Increase job creation in the maritime industry;

4. Raise the Philippine ship registry as a responsible flag register;

5. Ensure continuous sea transport service for domestic and international trade;

6. Optimize port capacity and performance to be at par with regional and international gateways;

7. Increase the country’s share in the global shipbuilding/repair sectors;

8. Maintain safe, efficient and secure Philippine merchant fleet in domestic and international routes;

9. Develop maritime human capital; and

10. Maintain the country’s advantages in the provision of shipboard manpower to international shipping.

The proposal also included action plans, strategy, and time frame. It was also mentioned during the discussion that because not many Filipinos understand maritime, a massive campaign to raise awareness and consciousness of the general public must be launched to help mainstream maritime in government all over the archipelago.

Capt. Ronald Enrile of Angkla Partylist pledged to support the initiative of various groups especially in crafting specific measures to achieve their goals through legislation. In the subsequent forum-workshop, groups presented their road maps, proposals, and/or demands for inclusion in the coming document for submission to the President.

Additional proposals focused on resolving port congestion, focus on elimination of corruption in various government agencies such as NLRC, MARINA, PPA, POEA, Coast Guard, etc., creation of admiralty court, enhancement of the Philippine Ship Registry, creation of an integrated shipping commission or department of maritime affairs, and other proposals to make “maritime” as the “keyplayer” in the Philippine economy which the Government fails to recognize.

Most of these meetings ended with the acknowledgement of all those present and who participated actively in the discussion to make the National Maritime Agenda truly reflective of the demands, vision and aspirations of the various maritime stakeholders. Requested repeatedly was the need to send in their written proposals or road maps for inclusion in the proposed NMA for everyone to react and ratify later on.

Note: I acknowledge this NMA was initiated at the Forum of the Movement with President Duterte in January 27 at the Davao Merchant Marine Academy, well before he got elected. In that occasion, he was made to sign a “commitment wall” in front of over 2,000 people that he would give priority to the maritime sector once elected into office. Thus, my accession to this mandate of the MMP.

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