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Susan V. Ople: Let 2019 become the year of Philippine maritime renaissance

2019 will be a good year
Susan V. Ople - January 2, 2019

THE latest Social Weather Station poll reveals that 9 out of 10 Filipinos welcome the New Year with hope. This shows great idealism on the part of our largely millennial-dominated population, and cheerfulness on the part of proud senior citizen card-bearers. With a mindset like that, it’s hard to look for the gloom and doom, especially when January 1 steps in bathed in glorious sunlight.

There are reasons to be hopeful. We have the midterm elections coming up, and the ballot is ours for the shading. I hope that we not only elect the familiar but also try to fill up our list with unknowns with excellent credentials. Running a nationwide campaign is extremely expensive. Good intentions are not enough. Yet, in every race, there will always be the do-gooders and idealists who may not be the most popular, but would have made their Senate seats matter. Seek them out. Listen to them. Give these unknown candidates a chance.

Let 2019 become the year of Philippine maritime renaissance. Even as the world acknowledges the excellence of the Filipino seafarer, our competitors continue to step up their game. Indonesia and Myanmar have aggressive overseas maritime programs and are turning out to be our toughest competitors. We need to “upskill” our seafarers and also provide their families with stepping-stones to local entrepreneurship.

The Maritime Industry Authority has developed a maritime industry development program for the President’s approval. The major programs under the proposed MIDP include the development of an international maritime hub, coastal and Inland Waterway Transport System, and Philippine Maritime Safety Enhancement. They also want to step up Marina’s services and programs for our seafarers. According to maritime industry experts, there will be a shortage of 92,000 officers by the year 2020, which is projected to reach 147,500 in 2025. For our seafarers, this shortage represents enormous income and career boosters. The government must support our maritime sector to maintain our excellent reputation in global shipping industry.