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Intensifying private sector consultation

Intensifying private sector consultation
Atty. Brenda V. Pimentel July 20, 2022

DURING the recent validation workshop on the Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP) conducted by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), the matter of meaningful consultation with the industry was reiterated. That the same basic and substantial issues were raised as in past exercises conducted to review and update the MIDP and the continuing request of the multiple stakeholders covered by the Plan for a clear and perceptible track for the maritime industry indicate a weakness in the consultation process.

The MIDP in its current edition has been the subject of several dialogues between the government and stakeholders, primarily focused on the progress of the implementation activities of the nine programs (now 10) of the MIDP, and stakeholders are still trying to understand the implementation activities versus the ultimate objectives of the plan and how these impact on improving the sea transport in the archipelago.

Stakeholders point to the absence of feedback after consultations have been conducted. To this end, public consultations should not be limited to those times when new policies and regulations are submitted to the public/stakeholders; continuing dialogues to solicit feedback from the regulated community and those who are expected to benefit from government policies and programs should be seen as part of the consultation.

Stakeholders do not hold for absolute acceptance by the government of the former's position; rather, in making sense of why industry recommendations were not adopted, they ask to be informed on the reasons. Instituting a feedback mechanism is as important as the conduct of the consultation itself as it is the platform by which government can further elucidate the rationale of a proposed policy, program, or regulations vis-à-vis the stakeholders' position. Feedback, in this case, is intended not to delay government action but more on understanding the rationale for introducing its policies, programs, and regulations, thus getting wider support.

Meaningful public consultation is key to stakeholders' support and cooperation. It is through consultations that the private sector gets to understand the whys and wherefores of government plans and programs. Plans and programs do not sprout overnight; these come from various sources including those from the public (users of goods and services) and the industry stakeholders (providers of goods and services). Getting the stakeholders involved early on in the formulation of policies and programs should be considered the more practical way of conducting the consultation.

Government after all has the plenary power to decide on propositions submitted to it.

Much time is spent in putting forward the matter of public consultations which most agencies of government cite as having been fulfilled when seeking approval of higher authorities. In many cases though, public consultation has become a trivial step done to comply with government requirements. Where attention was raised on the manner by which consultation is done, the familiar justification of having to meet the deadline set by the higher authorities is offered.

The government needs to recognize that its services for the citizens are realized through the active participation and support of the private sector; it is the latter that eventually makes things happen. Such realization calls for a change of the regulators' mindset to one of creating the enabling environment for the stakeholders to deliver effectively the expected goods and services and benefits to their respective clientele. Let it not be said that the industry's inability to deliver is due to bureaucratic processes or the lack of government support. This is not to suggest the unnecessary relaxation of the government's regulatory framework as industry players must be called to task to ensure that nationally-adopted standards and requirements are adhered to.

Indeed, there is a need to intensify the process of public consultation!!!