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Sustainability efforts in Philippine maritime industry

Sustainability efforts in PH maritime industry
January 13, 2018

Sustainability in the Philippine maritime industry can be achieved if appropriate, synergized and productive steps are taken to promote the implementation of beneficial programs. This can be done with the commitment and concerted efforts of all its stakeholders from the public and private sectors. This would forge lasting and proactive relationships among them that are directed toward growing and developing their respective sectors.

Sustainable supply

Shipping is one sector in the maritime industry that has a global impact. The world economy is very much dependent on a sustainable maritime transport system for the continued, safe and timely transport of cargo from one region or continent to another.

But a 2015 report on manpower forecasts by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) and the International Chamber in Shipping (ICS) said there is an impending shortage of qualified seafarers in the next 10 years. The aggregate number, while posting growth, is nonetheless surpassed by the increasing demand for officers who can handle specialized vessels, like LPG and LNG carriers, chemical tankers and those with newer models equipped with the latest engine technologies.

While it is a critical issue, the dearth of high-caliber maritime manpower can be considered an opportunity for Filipino seafarers. The report also said that, although it seemed China has beaten the Philippines as the largest supplier of seafarers, there is, however, a limited number of Chinese officers. Ship-management companies and manning agencies still rely on the Philippines and Russia as significant sources of marine officers.

Republic Act 10635 defines the tasks of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) as the one implementing the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping For Seafarers (STCW), as amended for all registered seafarers in the Philippines. Given this important function, a Marina official said the agency is exerting all efforts to accomplish its maritime manpower goals, which are geared toward increasing the country’s marketability and sustainability in supplying world-class Filipino seafarers.

Marina’s functions also include the timely issuance of certificates of endorsement and proficiency to about 500,000 seafarers; upholding the integrity of STCWs issued by the Philippine government; implementation and enforcement of a quality system standard that’s consistent with the STCW convention’s requirements, as amended; monitoring and ensuring compliance of higher education-supervised maritime-education institutions and accredited maritime training institutions; continuous update of curricula for marine engineering and maritime-transport education to comply with global standards; and effective communication of the policies and regulations arising from the implementation of RA 10635 to avoid misinformation and miscommunication.

Skilled and semi-skilled manpower are expected to occupy not only jobs at sea, but also meet the human-resource requirements of the Philippine shipbuilding and ship-repair industry, which is gaining momentum.

Sustainable economy

The ultimate goal of any enterprise is to consistently gain a comfortable margin of profit to achieve a high rate of return and the growth of investments and assets to satisfy investors and shareholders. On the other hand, there are other areas that must be considered to sustain the business on a long-term basis.

One of these is increasing capitalization and assets. Other than domestic savings, the government’s economic experts are working to forge stronger relationships with other countries and attract foreign investments. This will help boost an economy whose growth is attributed to different industries, including maritime sectors that include shipping lines, ship building/repair, maritime tourism, and fishing.

Sustainable development goals

In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a new agenda for sustainable development. This includes identifying 17 goals and attaining these by 2030. Among these, the Philippine maritime industry is expected to contribute to the attainment of goal no. 1 and 14.

The first goal is eradicating poverty. The government’s strategy to attain this includes implementing sustainable development programs by relevant agencies, which would accelerate job creation, improve people’s socioeconomic status, and promote the welfare of vulnerable groups and marginalized sectors.

A sectoral council member of an anti-poverty oversight agency said fishermen are one of the disadvantaged groups that the government should pay attention to. Mang Carding, a member of that group who hails from a coastal town in Pampanga province, said that although he is a fisherman, his family seldom enjoys his catch, as they are so poor that they have to sell even small fishes in order to have money to buy other food staples.

In light of this, relevant organizations, like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), are directed to focus their social development efforts on creating sustainable fishing programs aimed to benefit the 1.6 million people who depend on fishing and its related industries. According to BFAR’s 2015 year-end report, 1.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is attributed to fisheries.

BFAR launched sustainable fishery programs to help fishing communities. It is also relentless in its efforts to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This is recognized by international communities as a manifestation of the government’s commitment to tackle the problem and provide workable solutions. Recently, BFAR was designated to co-monitor the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise with the Philippine Coast Guard.

‘Blue economy’

Goal No. 14 recognizes that the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources are essential in development. Healthy oceans and seas promote actions to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as enhance efforts for ecological and environmental adaptation. This is consistent with the increasingly popular “blue economy” concept on sustainable development, Its application in the context of marine and coastal environment was conceived at the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

As an archipelago, the Philippines is host to a marine ecosystem that’s considered one of the most diverse in the world. Our marine resources there can best be managed using blue-economy principles. This will subsequently benefit about 100 million Filipinos, whose food and livelihood sources depend on oceans and seas.

A Philippine Institute for Development paper in 2015 proposed that the country can appropriately use the blue-economy approach in developing and using the country’s fisheries resources.