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Finding maritime in the 2nd SONA

Finding maritime in the 2nd SONA
Atty. Brenda V. Pimentel August 2, 2023

IN his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, nothing was mentioned by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM) relating to the maritime industry.

In his second SONA, maritime stakeholders are encouraged with a direct reference to Filipino seafarers, at least. One notes that even if there was no hint of maritime in his SONA this year, there is always a reason to believe sea transport will play a prominent part in all the targets BBM mentioned.

Notwithstanding the numerous roads and bridges being built, sea transport remains the main artery connecting the many islands of the archipelago. The building of ports was cited as one of the administration projects, a clear attribution to the need for sea transport, be it to transport people, tourists or agricultural produce; after all, sea transport is still the most economical way of transporting goods in bulk.

Tourists and visitors will savor the experience of going around the islands, and the best way to do that is always by sea. Cruise tourism in the Philippine archipelago appeals as a new adventure for foreign and local tourists, and passing through ports and terminals gives a lasting impression to cruisers with convenience and sanitation rated as minimum standards.

Maintaining the prominence of the Filipino seafarer in world shipping was acknowledged, a Presidential compliment much appreciated.

The President in his SONA declared: "The bane of the mismatch between jobs and skills among our workforce is being rectified through strengthened government-industry-labor-academic partnerships and continuous reskilling and upskilling training programs."

Growing maritime talents is one of the priority targets of the Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP) if this archipelago is to realize its national objective of making the Philippines a truly maritime nation.

This means recognizing the maritime circumstances of the country and affirming its important contribution toward attaining economic, political, social and cultural progress — the reason for building a maritime workforce.

However, attention should not be limited to producing world-class seafarers but also expanding the pool of naval architects, shipyard workers, maritime educators, port and harbor workers, maritime service crew such as those in ship chandling, ship managers and superintendents, and associated maritime careers and professions.

Too, those who are to join the team of government maritime policymakers and regulators deserve to be given focus. Attracting those in the labor force to go into maritime employment or professions (not necessarily seafaring) could be one of the strategies for reducing unemployment in the country.

The maritime industry is one big business for this archipelago, if only government takes notice!

BBM hopes to make the Philippines a "global maritime hub"!

Mr. President, making this archipelago a maritime hub takes more than having a pool of competitive and competent seafarers. It means being able to maintain a good safety record for its merchant fleet, either on domestic or international voyages; becoming a responsible member of the international shipping community that can give effect to international maritime regulatory instruments; and having good governance in its maritime administration that is able to institute predictable and transparent policies and legislation.

A global maritime hub means being able to provide efficient services such as telecommunications, banking, power interconnectivity, transportation, etc. These are what the existing global maritime hubs offer.

The Philippines must at least aim to be as good as these competitors!

The President's second SONA lays down the strategic plans to achieve "immediate recovery from the pandemic slump" and toward a peaceful and progressive Philippines.

The MIDP embraces details and key results that support and champion BBM's plans!