You are here

PMMA’s P121M maritime scholarship fund fails to sail

PMMA’s P121M maritime scholarship fund fails to sail
Peter Tabingo -April 19, 2021

A P121.5 million scholarship program of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) that was supposed to help faculty members and students gain expertise in maritime-related fields appears dead in the water, with just a third of its funding released two years past its supposed completion.

Government auditors did not mince words tagging the PMMA for “poor planning and execution strategies,” “inaction on accounting flaws,” and questionable spending of program funds for the Academic Enhancement of Maritime Education and Training (AEMET) Project.

On December 28, 2015 the PMMA signed a memorandum of agreement with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to create the scholarship fund. As the only state-owned specialized maritime school, the PMMA was considered ideal for the program implementation.

The plan was to advance maritime education and training for both instructors and students by financing their further studies here and abroad.

At the time, the national government recognized that Filipino seafarers, comprising no less than 30 percent of the world’s 1.2 million mariners, are a vital human resource for the country. It made sense to keep a step ahead in addressing the demand for such manpower and to maintain competitiveness of future Filipino ship crew and officers.

The four-year program kicked off with the release of the first tranche of P44.517 million by the CHED on May 24, 2016.

That was the first and the last time the project has showed signs of life.

“As this is a four-year project, completion was expected on December 31, 2019. However, during the whole duration of the project, the CHED only released the first tranche for the first phase amounting to ₱44,517,197.40,” the audit team said.

As of December 31, 2020, a full year past the project completion target, the PMMA had only drawn P32.65 million from the program or a measly 27 percent of the allotted budget.

Under the PMMA-CHED agreement, the first release would have to be fully utilized and liquidated before the succeeding tranches will be released.

While there were issues on vagueness as to the scope of spending in different parts of the scholarship program, it was the changes of people in the decision-making level that mainly hobbled the program.

The new people who came in were at sea, bogged down by indecision in unfamiliar waters.

“With the changes in the officials-in-charge in the CHED Technical Panel for Maritime Education (chaired by the Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Official/Committee assigned by CHED for the project development and implementation), the Academy’s designated Program Management Team (PMT) encountered challenges in presenting the revisions and securing approval,” the audit team noted.