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Resolute in pursuing environmental protection

Resolute in pursuing environmental protection
Brenda V. Pimentel August 26, 2020

The 10-point agenda of VAdm Roberto Empedrad (Ret), administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), provides industry stakeholders a snapshot of the agency’s focus and commitment in the midst of the pandemic. Institutional reforms seem to be the priority direction of the administrator which includes, among others, capacitating Marina’s manpower complement, creating an additional deputy administrator position, maximizing automation, and promoting good governance. Expectedly, improving this archipelago’s implementation of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) is another highlight of Empedrad’s agenda.

The inclusion of environment protection in the Administrator’s list of commitments is most welcome as Marina appears to be less immersed in matters relating to environmental protection. Marina assumed an active role in the ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWM) and the Anti-fouling Systems Convention (AFS) and together with the member-agencies of the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on the Ratification and Implementation of IMO Conventions (ICCRIMC) is pursuing the preparation of the legislation and administrative procedures to implement the conventions. Progress in transposing the requirements of the two conventions into law is laudable and one reason being that of the sustained works by the member agencies of the ICCRIMC. Hopefully, Marina’s role in preventing pollution from ships will become even more evident.

One thing that is exceedingly noticeable at this time of the pandemic is the widespread use of personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks, face shields, and other disposable equipment and tools to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) virus. One wonders how the disposal of these equipment most of which are made of plastic is being managed. Onboard ships, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) provides requirements and guidelines which flag States are to adopt and implement. As travel restrictions are lifted and ships are able to resume their regular trading, increase in the volume of ship-generated garbage is also expected. Is the archipelago confident it is able to implement the MARPOL provisions?

This could be the right time for Marina (and the ICCRIMC) to assess the status of implementation MARPOL. This convention is one of the pillars of the global regulatory regime for shipping and expected to figure as the main subject in the IMO Member States Audit Scheme (IMSAS), preparation for which is one of the priorities set by the MARINA Administrator.

MARPOL was ratified by the Philippines in 2001; nineteen (19) years passed and no legislation has been enacted to implement the said convention. Some may argue that the maritime agencies, i.e. Marina, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Ports Authority, and the other port authorities in this archipelago are implementing the provisions of the convention pertinent to their respective agencies’ mandates, through circulars and advisories, a classic model of fragmented implementation of shipping regulations. Clear and coherent policies and regulations are the hallmarks of a responsible flag State which unfortunately is yet to be realized in this archipelago.

A MARPOL bill has been pending in Congress for the past fifteen (15) years or so and as this has been filed and re-filed as many times as the Congress has changed there is a need to re-visit the bill. When the bill was drafted, the Polar Code has not been adopted and therefore the requirements of the Code relating to MARPOL Annex V on Garbage have not been incorporated in the bill. Likewise, the provisions on preventing GHG emissions from ships under Annex VI of MARPOL may need to be reviewed as well. VAdm Empedrad is probably the first Marina Administrator to ever include in his agenda for action that of the environment protection.

There is much optimism that with the Administrator’s 10 point agenda, Marina within its capacity as flag administration will act on all the pending actions needed to protect the waters of the archipelago and to bring all Philippine-flagged ships wherever these are found ensure clean seas!

When the top honcho speaks, the whole agency takes notice!!!