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Maritime Industry Development Plan: Getting attention!

Getting attention!

Last October 19, I had a good opportunity of engaging in a friendly discussion high level officials of the country’s maritime agencies. A reluctant participant in the meeting, I took that rare chance to be able to explain the primary objective of the Movement for Maritime Philippines (MMP) – that of calling attention to the maritime industry and giving it the recognition deserving of a potent economic tool yet long ignored by this archipelago.

Convened by a small group of stakeholders from various maritime sectors in 2015, these like-minded individuals brought into the table their commitment of openness and willingness to reflect and deliberate on what holds the maritime industry from playing its role as a driver of progress in this country that lies astride vast waters. Compared to a minute country like Singapore which shares the Malacca Strait with its neighbors, why can’t the Philippines be transformed and known as a “maritime nation” rather than a country which primarily supplies shipboard labor?”

MMP acknowledges the mandate entrusted by Presidential Decree No. 474 issued in 1974 by President Ferdinand Marcos to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for the said agency to put up the Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP) which at the time the MMP initiated the putting up of a national maritime agenda in late 2015 (and prior to the presidential election of 2016) was not even heard about as a priority program of MARINA. MMP worked from that premise of using the MIDP as the medium by which a national maritime agenda could be formulated – MMP is an effort by stakeholders to move government into action and give a hard look at the maritime industry. There are some in government who may not agree but the country’s focus in so far as the maritime industry is concerned been always that which concerns the seafaring sector – and this despite the claim of producing competent seafarers, yet at the same time trying to figure out how to improve maritime education and training to comply with the STCW Convention. It does not compute.

MARINA is working and about to complete the MIDP as was mentioned by Usec Felipe Judan during the meeting. MMP on the other hand in collaboration with the National Coast Watch Council through its secretariat led by Usec. Jose Alano, has completed the first set of the process of roundtable discussions which shall be the subject of a convergence conference today at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

Confronted with the question of MMP claiming credit for coming up with the national maritime agenda, the movement has never been motivated to getting such attribution – it is enough achievement for the convenors to have stirred the attention of government, industry and the general public to take the maritime industry above sectoral interests. The MIDP and the national maritime policy are moving towards convergence to form a holistic national maritime agenda, that is both inclusive and sustainable.

Gauging the goal which the MMP set when the convenors first met in 2015 against where the maritime discussions have been brought, the movement could claim some success, that is, raising the awareness and visibility of the maritime industry for appreciation by a wider audience. Regardless of who takes the lead in the advocacy for maritime discussions and debates, government, industry and civil society, let us not lose sight of the bigger goal: to optimize the contributions of the maritime industry towards national progress the benefits of which should reach those in the margins of Philippine society.