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ATTY. BRENDA V. PIMENTEL: Updating Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations 1997

Updating PMMRR
BRENDA V. PIMENTEL April 3, 2018

The need to update the Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations 1997 (PMMRR’97) is one topic that always arouses the interest of maritime stakeholders. In one meeting I attended, someone called attention to how thin the book containing these rules and regulations was, as if their insufficiency or obsolescence could be remedied by thickness or breadth. The need to update PMMRR’97, it seemed to me then, has been recognized by former Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) officials as early as ten years ago.

I was part of the team that crafted the PMMRR’97, and was even in charge of ship registration, a non-technical chapter in the book. The technical rules and regulations were lifted almost verbatim from the Iran document for non-convention ships, most of the provisions of which have no relevance to our country’s domestic shipping operations.

Despite this, the document was eventually adopted, to the consternation of most of Marina’s maritime technical officers. That was a good example of accepting regionally adopted policies and regulations without thoroughly analyzing its applicability to a domestic setting. It may be interesting to know the extent of the PMMRR’97’s implementation.

When the merchant marine rules and regulations were adopted, more than 50 Marina memorandum circulars
were implemented. These deal with technical and non-technical subjects, most of which are for domestic-shipping application and, thus, considered part of the PMMRR’97.

However, there was no attempt to have these circulars incorporated in the PMMRR’97, although these were the
primary bases for Marina to exercise a regulatory regime over domestic ships.

I recall having suggested to the technical team that helped craft the PMMRR’97 to review and update them immediately after it has been gazetted, specifically to amplify rules found to be too general in their formulation and incorporate the circulars into pertinent chapters to fill existing gaps.

I gathered there was indeed a team formed by Marina to update PMMRR’97. The document’s chapters and headings were divided among the agency’s several offices, according to the areas of competence or expertise of the technical staff. Again, there was the general instruction to adopt the global regulations for domestic ships, which thankfully never happened. If it did, the result would be like what had happened in the case of the Iran document. Ten years after the team’s formation and several administrators later, an updated PMMRR is still beyond reach.

Defining the PMMRR

One issue that needs to be resolved and was not clearly agreed on by those tasked to update the document was settling what constitutes the PMMRR. Until there is clear understanding of what the PMMRR ought to cover, any effort to update them would not succeed.

As the PMMRR’97 primarily focuses on domestic-shipping operations, the question should be: What other areas of the maritime industry fall under the regulatory regime and must be embraced by the PMMRR? It is wrong to think that only the technical regulations of safety and marine environment protection should be in the PMMRR, and for which reason the review and update should focus on these concerns.

Similarly, it is not right to limit the review to an agency-specific scope, i.e. those falling within Marina’s mandate. Port state control regulations, although formulated, issued and implemented by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), should be embraced by national merchant marine regulations. In fact, all rules and regulations that stipulate standards and requirements for maritime-related activities and that covers entities in maritime-related professions form part of the PMMRR.

A greater part of the PMMRR must deal with the implementing rules on the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping fo Seafarers (STCW), as these deal with a major sector of the country’s merchant shipping, never mind if Filipino seafarers aim for overseas employment.

I wonder if Marina ever thought of these rules as a major chapter in the updated PMMRR. In the same way, port regulations related to the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code must also be included in the PMMRR. Discussions with Robert Arceo, Marina director of planning and programming services, indicated that rules and regulations governing fishing vessel operations are being finalized and which could find its way into the updated PMMRR.

There are those who may not readily accept the aforementioned view on how the PMMRR should be reformulated and updated. Perhaps, it is for Marina to solicit proposals on how the rules and regulations should be updated in a way that is relevant, comprehensive, simplified, and easy to understand. The agency may just consider that.