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MARINO lawmaker Carlo Gonzalez: A silent worker

Marino lawmaker: A silent worker
Yashika F. Torib October 14, 2020

Carlo Gonzalez. The name alone sparked questions and curiosity amongst the ‘marine-ated’ when he ran for a legislative position representing the maritime industry last year. “Is he from a seafaring family? Was he a seafarer? What connects him to this industry? What does he know about us?”

The buzz up the grapevine droned on for a while longer after Gonzalez won a seat in Congress and stayed out of the limelight thereafter, leading people to think that not only was he an another non-seafaring politician, but also a passive one.

Contrary to most beliefs, and regardless of his strikingly youthful charm, keeping off the public eye was a premeditated move for Gonzalez.

“These criticisms that I am not visible to the public are valid,” Gonzalez admitted in an interview with The Manila Times.

“This is how I operate — doing the work with no fanfare. With the kind of political climate we currently have, I tread carefully when presenting myself as a leader. I do not want to be branded as a traditional politician who reacts on every issue hounding the nation, as well as hijacks certain events for political gains,” he continued.

True enough, Gonzalez’ MARINO Patylist was barely heard or seen especially at the height of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Seafarers were stranded onboard ships while those on land (locally stranded individuals) were unable to return home due to travel restrictions, thus, leaving them at the mercy of those who could send out food and financial assistance at a time when they were almost kicked out of their dormitories due to non-payment. These seafarers and LSIs have consistently thanked the private groups and sectoral leaders for hearing their plight while raising an eyebrow for the seemingly absent MARINO partylist.

Then again, unbeknownst to many, Gonzales was among those who were pulling the strings to get these projects off the ground.

He and his team addressed the food scarcity amongst the seafarer LSIs, their mobility restrictions in and out Metro Manila, threats of eviction due to rental arrears, financial challenges of the unemployed mariners, academic woes of the cadets and the graduating maritime students, and the expiring certificates of seafarers whether they are onboard or onshore. The group was also the hands behind the filing of the Philippine Crew Change Hub that has benefited seafarers and manning agencies in terms of crew rotation and employment retention.

All the tedious and extensive preparations, coordination, documentation, and implementation that such projects entail has set Gonzales and his team working overtime, with little attention as to who would receive the credits and praise.

“My style of leadership is diplomatic and responsive. Since I am a sectoral representative, the interests I put forward are those of my constituents — nothing more, nothing less.

Whenever there are problems surrounding the maritime industry, especially the seafarers, I would take the time to go over it, assess it, and take the best possible course of action to resolve the same,” he said.

Effecting tangible solutions for seafarers

Gonzales is not a son of the sea no r a shore-based professional who eventually took the ‘marine-ated’ route of the maritime executives. He is a businessman from Mindanao who, in his dealings with people, encountered numerous seafarers who share stories of neglect and woeful plight.

“Although I have an uncle and cousin who are seafarers, I opted to represent this sector mainly due to seafarers’ needs that have been neglected for the longest time, and the fact that they are one of the marginalized sectors of our society despite the remittances they bring to the country.

“When I assumed office as first representative, this has given me a bird’s eye view of the maritime landscape in the Philippines – what the problems are; the opportunities; the threats; and how to effect change. Since I am already accustomed to the issues surrounding the maritime and seafaring industry, the solution is simple: to directly provide the assistance to the seafarers in need. This is why the MARINO Action Center came into fruition – to make the help to seafarers tangible, long-term, and accessible,” Gonzales explained.

Charting progress

Gonzales, nowadays, continues working behind the scenes even with the public’s misplaced presumption of his alleged indifference. In fact, the young legislator is helping out the maritime stakeholders in pushing to open ports in Cebu and Davao to accommodate crew change from ships. He is also lobbying for the adoption of Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers Act which provides safety nets for maritime professionals in times of crisis.

Other priority bills of MARINO partylist are the Maritime Education and Training Act, Free Vaccination for OFWs, Creation of Seafarers dormitory, and creation of MARINA Offices to support crew change.

“The vastness and uniqueness of this sector is daunting but I am driven by my passion to rise up to the challenge of providing concrete and feasible solutions to the problems of this sector,” he said.