Robredo tags maritime industry as a priority, bats for ship registry

  • The maritime industry will be a top priority for presidential candidate Leni Robredo if she gets elected
  • Robredo said she is for the creation of the Philippine Ship Registry, and will certify as urgent such a measure
  • The Maritime Industry Authority should be strengthened
  • Government should not overregulate but should incentivize industries, she said

The maritime industry will be top priority for Vice President Leni Robredo if she gets elected president in May, saying she eyes doubling
the industry’s contribution to GDP from 6% to 12%.

In an online forum organized by the Filipino Shipowners Association on March 7, Vice President Robredo recognized the
maritime industry as “key to the country’s overall resilience” and that “empowering the sector (will) be a national imperative”
which would lead to unlocking of other opportunities for the country.

Philippine ship registry

Robredo backed the establishment of a Philippine ship registry so that Philippine-flagged ships can operate internationally.
This, she said, would also ensure Filipino seafarers have easier access to cargo vessels.

She lamented the absence of a flag carrier, a situation that drives the country’s seafarers to seek employment on vessels of other jurisdictions.
“Nagpapahiram (tayo) ng tao sa ibang bansa(We lend our people to other countries)when we have the best.
Tayo tuloy ang wala(In the end, we are left with no one).”

The Philippines is the world’s biggest supplier of seafarers, filling 25% of the market.

She noted new maritime graduates currently have few options for training and employment since most Philippine fleet are only fishing vessels.

She expressed willingness to certify as urgent the Ship Registry bill if refiled. The measure pushed by former Angkla Partylist
representative Atty Jesulito Manalo got as far as approval on third reading in the last Congress.

Doubling the country’s contribution to the economy is within reach, Robredo said, if seafarers for one get better education and training,
in the process improving their employment prospects and allowing more of them to become ship officers.
This, Robredo said, would translate to better pay for seafarers and higher remittances for the country.

Ship officers’ wages can be as much as $15,000 per month compared to an able-bodied seaman’s wage of $1,200.

She pushed for public-private partnership in maritime education to ensure maritime courses offered in the Philippines are at par
with international standards, come with reasonable training fees, and address future needs of the industry, including for automation.

She said she will replicate the cadetship program initiated in Bulan, Sorsogon where maritime training is part of the K-12 curriculum.
Completion of the program gives graduates the competence to already work as able-bodied seafarers without having to finish a college degree.

Robredo vowed to support the strengthening of the Maritime Industry Authority by increasing its budget and building its competency
as an institution. She said there needs to be an assessment of what Marina needs, of how to improve its role as a regulatory agency,
and how to implement its mandate.

She committed to addressing deficiencies identified by the European Union in the country’s seafarers’ education, training,
and certification system. The European Commission last December notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies, including serious ones,
in its seafarers’ education system, which fails to guarantee requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping forSeafarers (STCW) Convention are met.

The EC, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), will then assess the reply of the Philippines and determine a course of action.

In case of a negative assessment, the European Union would eventually withdraw recognition of Philippine-issued STCW certificates for masters and officers—a decision that would be cascaded to its 27 member-states.

Reintegration program

Robredo batted for an overseas Filipino worker reintegration program, a requirement of which is the creation of an interagency task force on reintegration for different types of OFW returnees
(crisis returnees, temporary returnees, retirees). Families should be part of the program, she added, with financial integration part of the process targeted at OFW families.

She is also proposing a one-stop-shop migration office in very province which Naga, from where the vice president hails, already implements. In partnership with the International Maritime Organization, the migration office caters to pre-migration to return of OFWs. The office allows seafarers to process their papers without having to go to national offices.

In the end, she said, going overseas should be a matter of choice, and not a necessity.

In addition to making investments in people, the Vice President said boosting the maritime industry’s contribution to the economy would require the modernization of ports and harbors and the strengthening of the intermodal national logistics system.

Government, she said, should also not overregulate but incentivize sectors and provide all the support it needs.

She committed to a strong private-public partnership with a bias toward listening to experts in the field.

She promised to make the right appointments, avoiding political ones.

Robredo also pushed for stronger stakeholder engagement, a proper industry roadmap and the abandonment of outdated policies.

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