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President FVR a maritime industry advocate

President FVR a maritime industry advocate
Atty. Brenda V. Pimentel August 17, 2022

LAST week, President Fidel V. Ramos, 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines, was laid to rest. The tribute from people who had the good opportunity of working and dealing with him as boss, leader and friend was overwhelming as they shared their memories of how good a man and a gentleman he was. People who did not have personal encounters with him though were content on contemplating how it was during his presidency.

One of the most prominent concerns of the ordinary citizen, when FVR took the helm of government, was the power crisis with electricity outages happening across the land. At that time, I was with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and power-generating barges were brought into the country as a practical solution to the shortage of electricity. For many, it meant uninterrupted electricity at home and in the workplace.

I can appreciate the many anecdotal recollections of FVR being an early riser and his being a workaholic. In my daily trips from my house in San Pedro, Laguna to Manila, it was very often that I saw the presidential convoy very early in the morning as it negotiated the South Expressway; I think FVR went home to Ayala Alabang even as he was holding office in Malacañang. Taking to the roads early meant there was no need for his convoy to clear the roads to let the convoy pass; it figures that was his approach of doing away with the "wang-wang" mentality.

FVR had a clear vision of getting the Philippine economy up and the maritime industry was very much a part of it. His pole-vaulting policy in uplifting the economy covered the various sectors of government including the maritime industry. He initiated the multisectoral maritime summit held at the PPL Building in UN Avenue to find ways to pole-vault the industry and lay down strategies for attracting investments in Philippine shipping.

One concrete step taken by Marina to support the pole-vaulting policy was the deregulation of domestic shipping. It was during FVR's time that Marina abandoned the "grandfather rule" in the grant of authority to provide sea transport services.

The prior operator rule protected those servicing domestic routes which contributed to the deterioration of sea transportation. The deregulation policy facilitated the introduction of steel-hulled ships and fast crafts on major shipping routes such as in the Batangas-Mindoro island, and Albay-Catanduanes and Cebu-Dumaguete-Dipolog shipping routes. It also saw the entry of new investments in the shipping sector and the introduction of bigger and faster ships. Passenger safety and convenience were given urgent attention during this time.

The maritime industry was part of FVR's globalization vision and therefore included in his agenda even during his overseas travels. FVR even convinced one of the biggest Greek shipping companies to agree for one Marina staff to take a two-week observation and study tour in 1997 to learn about developing and running a ship registry.

That study tour helped in drawing up a number of action steps that this archipelago must take if it is to develop the Philippine merchant fleet. A set of legislative and policy reforms such as clearly defining the Constitutional provision on "public service" was included in the proposed action steps.

That was in 1998, as FVR ended his term of office, a good 24 years passed as no follow-through was made by succeeding administrations. Late it may be, the amendatory law on the Public Service Act is most welcome and should be a good start.

Indeed, President Fidel V. Ramos, with his forward-looking vision for the Philippines, has left a legacy for the maritime industry with the deregulation policy in the shipping sector is one the industry must be grateful about. Not to forget the much referred to "CSW" (complete staff work) adopted in the civilian government today.

Thank you, FVR.