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BRENDA V. PIMENTEL: Strengthening inter-agency cooperation – a must for Maritime Philippines

Strengthening inter-agency cooperation – a must for Maritime Philippines
BRENDA V. PIMENTEL March 13, 2019

The Philippines was one of six beneficiary Asean countries that participated in the technical assistance project of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). The project had the overall objective of assisting participating countries in protecting the marine environment in the region through accelerating the ratification and implementation of IMO conventions relating to marine environment protection. The other participating countries were Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The IMO conventions covered by the project were the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Marpol), Ballast Water Management Convention (BWM), Anti-Fouling System Convention (AFS), and the London Convention/Protocol (Anti-Dumping of Waste).

The Philippines has been lagging behind in the ratification and implementation of IMO conventions relating to the prevention of pollution from ships. It took the Philippines 30 years to accede to Marpo, one of the main regulatory pillars for shipping; and eighteen (18) years after acceding to the convention Congress has yet to pass the legislation that will implement the convention.

One sticky issue confronting the ratification and implementation of maritime conventions pertains to the question of which agency has the mandate to implement maritime regulatory functions. The bill on the implementation of Marpol for example remains in limbo as questions of which agency should have the mandate to perform the provisions of said convention is hotly contested.

The four-year project term from 2013 to 2017 launched a review and assessment of the challenges confronting the countries in ratifying the conventions and in giving full effect to the provisions of the ratified conventions with a view to making the necessary policy, legislative and institutional reforms in each of the countries. The Philippines identified the BWM and the AFS conventions as the priority conventions targeted to be ratified.

Through the IMO/Norad project of 2013 to 2017, there was sustained attention given to the steps necessary to accelerate the process of ratification of the two identified priority conventions, i.e. BWM and AFS. The government through the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) as lead agency for the project expressed its commitment to the purposes of the project and which launched a series of initiatives and undertaking that brought together the other pertinent agencies and industry stakeholders towards the countries ratifying both priority conventions.

Several tools and mechanisms were adopted by the project and which the Philippines had put into action. One of this is the creation of a National Task Force (NTF) aimed at forging strong cooperation through sustained dialogues, between and among the various stakeholders.

The Philippines thus created, through a Department Order, the Inter-agency Coordinating Committee for the Ratification and Implementation of Maritime Conventions (ICCRIMC) which served as the venue for dialogues among the various stakeholders in respect of the benefits and disadvantages of ratifying and implementing the BWM and the AFS conventions. The ICCRIMC changed the posture of discussions among the various interests with the clear objective of seeking the best options for the country when ratifying a convention.

Consultative meetings held under the ICCRIMC agenda allowed open and transparent deliberation of issues. The ICCRIMC was deemed an effective tool in confidence building and securing a holistic approach to implementing a convention.

Upon the termination of the project in 2017, the Philippines was not able to ratify the BWM and AFS conventions as targeted. Nonetheless, the steps necessary to complete the ratification of the two conventions were abbreviated through the works of the ICCRIMC such that by the second quarter of 2018, the instruments of ratification covering the subject conventions were transmitted to the IMO secretary-general.

As the lead consultant of the project, this writer attests to the important role of the NTF not only in the Philippines but also in all the other project countries. Stakeholders’ buy-in of the objectives of the project and the recognition of the benefits that accrue to the country for ratifying and implementing conventions relating to marine environment protection was attained through the contribution of the NTF. In some countries including the Philippines, the NTF (or ICCRIMC) has been retained beyond the project duration for the purpose of sustained and meaningful dialogues among the stakeholders.

There is high expectation the legislation and the institutional mechanisms to implement the BWM and the AFS conventions will be forthcoming.