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An integrated approach to international maritime development

An integrated approach to international maritime development
Ambassador Carlos Salinas January 19, 2022

The Philippines is the world's largest supplier of seafarers. Of the 1.6 million seafarers manning over 50,000 commercial shipping around the world, about 230,000 are Filipinos.

They are preferred by international shipping companies because of their discipline, dedication, cultural sensitivity, adaptability, willingness to go the extra mile, and of course, their ability to communicate in English. Naturally, we want to raise the stakes and take our role to a higher level.

We, therefore, welcome the recent news that Executive Order (EO) 159, mandating an "integrated approach" in the ratification and accession to International Maritime Organization conventions and instruments, has been signed. The EO, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 28, also calls for the reconstitution and renaming of the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on the Ratification and Implementation of Maritime Conventions (ICCRIMC) to the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee to Facilitate the Ratification and Accession to and Implementation of Maritime Conventions (ICCFRAIMC).

The ICCRIMC was established in 2015 under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), now the Department of Transportation (DOTr), to "monitor developments and consider new international maritime conventions for ratification, including measures needed to satisfy their respective requirements, through research, monitoring and coordination with other government agencies."

The Philippines, a member of the International Maritime Organization since 1964, has ratified several international conventions which aim to ensure the safety of Filipino seafarers, protect the marine environment, and raise the standards of certification to increase the competency of Filipino seafarers, among others.

EO 159 is an affirmation of the government's commitment to keep the Philippines at the forefront of international maritime developments, and find ways for the maritime sector to go forward, "by integrating and empowering its Maritime Administration to study new maritime conventions and instruments for ratification, determine the responsibilities required thereby, and conduct a national interest analysis to ascertain their benefits to the country."

The EO further states that "The country strives to become a major maritime nation that gives premium to the protection of life and marine environment, enhancement of the level of safety of shipping, and advancement of the standards of training, certification, and watchkeeping for seafarers."

The ICCFRAIMC will be headed by a representative from the DOTr, with a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as vice-chair. Members will be composed of representatives from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA); Philippine Coast Guard; Philippine Ports Authority; Cebu Port Authority; Department of Agriculture — Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) — Environmental Management Bureau; DENR- Biodiversity Management Bureau; University of the Philippines (UP) — Marine Science Institute; and UP — Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology.

The new committee shall look into new international maritime conventions for possible ratification or accession, do a national interest analysis for the purpose, identify measures needed to satisfy convention requirements, and ascertain what effects these may have on the established maritime operations in the country.

It will also develop and adopt a National Work Programme (NWP) to chart timelines and determine the frequency of meetings, identify agency roles and responsibilities, and ensure the eventual implementation and enforcement of adopted instruments, in consonance with the country's overall maritime strategy. In addition, the committee will review and endorse proposed legislation, national policies, and administrative regulations, to support the implementation of adopted instruments.

For each international maritime instrument or group of instruments under review, the committee may create a Technical Working Group (TWG) made up of representatives from the members of the ICCFRAIMC, and designate a lead agency. It is clear that not a single agency but several agencies, performing diverse roles but acting towards a common goal, can do all this.

There is a reason why this act of cooperation is called a concerted effort, and American author J. Allen Boone said it best in musical terms: "We are members of a vast cosmic orchestra, in which each living instrument is essential to the complementary and harmonious playing of the whole."

And as members of the shipping industry, we are equally expected to perform our role in protecting our lands and oceans and keeping them safe not only for our seafarers but for the world.