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 New MARINA Law gains Congress approval

FEBRUARY 2014


IN all likelihood, before this edition gets into your hand, President Benigno Aquino III had already signed the first law to be enacted by the country’s 16th Congress.
 The new law will establish the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the single maritime administration responsible for the enforcement of the 1978 STCW Convention, as amended, and other related international agreements.  The law will likely be known simply as the “MARINA Law.”
 The swift passage of the law without question underscored the significance of at least two things: the Presidential imprimatur and the presence, for the first time in more than a decade, in Congress of a representative of the maritime industry, through Angkla Party-list Rep. Atty. Jesulito Manalo.
 Conscious of the threat posed by the continued fragmented implementation of the STCW Convention in the country that did not escape the eyes of maritime authorities in Europe, President Aquino certified as urgent administration measure the bill creating a single maritime administration.
 Authored by the Angkla representative, the bill that seeks to empower MARINA to administer the unified implementation of the Convention was filed practically as soon as the current 16th Congress opened in July 2013.
 The Presidential endorsement ensured the passage of the bill. While it is true that Malacañang’s support had assured the enactment of the measures, it was Atty. Manalo, who was orchestrating every step while the proposal was passing through the various stages of the legislative mill, thus hastening its enactment.
 With the full weight of the collective support of the manning industry behind him, the neophyte member of the House of Representatives sagaciously worked his way in both chambers of Congress in pushing for the early passage of the proposed MARINA Law.

 

Wooing lawmakers’ support
PERHAPS part of the strategy in wooing badly needed support for his pet bill, the maritime lawyer-turned-lawmaker made his presence felt by religiously attending committee hearings.
 “Walang committee meetings na absent ako; umaga o hapon basta sinabi nila na may meeting andoon ako (There was no meeting that I’m absent; once they announced there was a meeting, morning or afternoon, I’m present),” Atty. Manalo informed shipping executives, leaders of professional associations and industry groups that attended the consultation.
 Even as a first termer, he was named vice chairman of the House committees on labor as well as science and technology.  He is also a member of nine other strategic committees: House committees on transportation, health, foreign affairs, tourism, ways and means, overseas workers’ affairs, agrarian reform, justice and higher and technical education. 
 Apparently because of his diligence in committee meetings, he was able to gain the trust of leaders of the House committee on Transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento.  They entrusted him the chairmanship of its technical working group of the National Safety Board on Land, Air, and Sea Transportation, which includes among members more senior House members.
 And to help his colleagues in the House to have a deeper grasp of the importance of the maritime industry and appreciation of the seafaring profession, he invited them to visit a passenger ship.
 “Since it is difficult to board a cargo vessel here, we went to Singapore.  I brought four congressmen there, including the chairman and the vice chairman, doon kinausap namin ang mga marino (there, we talked to seafarers).  There they started talking to seafarers in the engine department and especially in the bars and restaurant.  And they realized the importance of seafarers to the economy.”
 When they returned home, the lawmakers had become ardent supporters of his bill.
 Atty. Manalo also approached key leaders in the House to lobby for his bill, even crossing the lines between the majority and minority members of the chamber. “I’ve talked to the Speaker.  I went to the office of Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte even if I’m just a neophyte lawmaker,” he said.
 On the opposition, Atty. Manalo also recounted: “I also talked to (Minority Leader) Rep. (Ronaldo) Zamora, an intelligent man. I told him: ‘I need this bill.’”
 His effort extended beyond the House.  He also went to Senate President Franklin Drilon to sell his bill and succeeded in winning the latter’s support.

History
FULLY convinced of the need to strengthen MARINA, the Senate leader asked for a copy of his bill. “He (Senator Drilon) told me: ‘Kokopyahin ko na lang ang bill mo (I will just adopt your bill),’” the Angkla representative recounted, quoting the Senate President. 
 It was the Senate President himself, who sponsored the chamber’s version of the bill, which he filed in September 2013.
 “Ang mga kasamahan ko sa Kongreso (My colleagues in Congress) did not believe that the bill would pass.
 It’s only a matter of time before the President affixes his signature after the bill was approved on third and final reading only days apart in the Senate and in the House.
 In an interview shortly after the approval of the bill on third reading on February 5,
 Senate President Drilon said there is no need to form a bicameral committee to iron out differences between the two chambers’ versions. “There were only two minor differences, only editorial,” he pointed out.
 A contingent from the Senate and the House would simply meet to come out with just one version. “That will be forwarded for the President the next week (third week of February) for his signature,’ he told Seaway.
 “It will be approved on third reading on February 10 and it will be signed by Speaker Belmote and Senate President Drilon and then forwarded to President Aquino for signing,” Atty. Manalo informed those present at the consultation.
 “Now it’s history; the first bill that would be signed into law by President Aquino in the 16th Congress is a maritime bill,” Atty. Manalo declared.  The Angkla representative was emphatic.

 PRC bats for 5-year transition period

PRC bats for 5-year transition period
A RANKING official of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) called for a five-year transition period in the implementation of the soon-to-be-enacted bill creating the single maritime administration for the STCW Convention and other international maritime agreements.
    Judging from the capability of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in handling the problem caused by the surge of applications for Certificates of Proficiency (COPs), the agency is obviously in no position to take over immediately the STCW-related functions of PRC as the bill seeks to stipulate.
    The transfer of STCW-related functions of PRC, from licensing to certification of the two marine professionals, would surely add headaches to the current nightmares at MARINA.
    In the licensing alone, MARINA would need some time to build its expertise on administering the licensure exams.
    A good example, he said, is the written examination where candidates for Officer-in-Charge could reach 2,000 every exam.
    “Kung kokorekin mo yan nang manu-mano, aabutin tayo ng siyam-siyam dyan bago mai-release ang resulta.  Samantalang sa PRC pag isinubo mo yung answer sheet at questionnaire, within hours may resulta na (If we were to correct them manually, it would take a lot of time before we can release the results while at PRC, once you feed the answer sheet and the questionnaire to a computer, you can get the results within hours).
    “You readily know who passed. It should be the same system before we decide kung kailan natin ililipat ang (when we would transfer) licensing to MARINA,” C/E Miguel Marasigan, chairman of Board of Marine Engineer Officers (BMEO), said.
    On the issuance of COCs, C/E Marasigan said that many officers are apprehensive to say the least if this function would be transferred to MARINA.
    Currently, MARINA could no longer cope with the long queues in the applications and delays in the issuance of COPs.  It is likely that the situation would get worse once it takes over the issuance of COCs.
    “Nakikita naman nating magkakaroon ng ganoong problema kapag biglaan ang transfer kaya siguro (That is what we see, there would be similar problems if we suddenly transfer the functions to MARINA so) we should learn from the issuance of COPs. 
    “At huwag na nating dagdagan yung sakit ng ulo ng ating mga marino (And let’s not cause further headaches to our seafarers),” he added.
    To avoid such scenario, C/E Marasigan proposed a five-year transition period similar to the practice of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
    “Siguro ang pinakamaganda nating gawin reference diyan ay yung ginagawa ng IMO. Kapag nag-utos ng bagong regulation o nagkaroon ng revision, binibigyan ng 5 taon ang bawat bansa para mag- adjust sa bagong regulation bago ang full implementation (Perhaps, the best reference on the issue is IMO. Every time it issued new regulations or revised rules, it gives member countries 5 years to adjust to the new rules before their full implementation).” 
    “So sana ganun din yung pag-transfer from PRC to MARINA pagdating sa COC (So I hope it will be the same in the transfer from PRC to MARINA on the issuance of COC),” he further said.
    The PRC official hopes his proposed transition period will be incorporated in the law’s implementing rules and regulations to pave the way for a smooth transfer of PRC’s STCW functions to MARINA.
    C/E Marasigan also assured the industry that PRC, which belongs to the Labor department, would give its full cooperation with MARINA once the bill is signed into law.
    “Kami naman sa PRC katulad ng nabanggit ng aming  masipag na Chairperson Tess Manzala nang magsalita siya sa meeting ng JMG na kung magkakaroon ng bagong batas sa issuance ng COC, ay iyon ang susundin namin kasi tayong lahat naman dapat sumunod sa batas . (We at PRC, just what our hardworking Chairperson Tess Manzala said during the meeting with the Joint Manning Group that once a new law had been passed on the issuance of COC we would abide by that since we all should obey the law).” 
    In the end, the PRC official emphasized that PRC and other government agencies support the interest of the Filipino seafarers. “Iyan naman lagi ang nasa puso natin kaya nga andyan tayo para masilbihan natin ang ating mga marino (That is what is in our hearts, that is why we are always here to serve our seafarers),” the veteran chief engineer concluded.


        Creating an all-powerful MARINA

 ONCE signed into law, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) without question would emerge fully empowered to administer the STCW Convention.  
    Simply put: MARINA would be the regulator of the multibillion dollar business of maritime education, training and certification.
    It no longer needs the memorandum of understanding (MOU) it signed earlier with other agencies concerned with STCW of seafarers, giving MARINA oversight function over the agencies’ implementation of the Convention.  The agency would be in a league of its own.
    It is because Congress would empower MARINA with authority to take over all the functions related to STCW Convention of major agencies, which have been a persistent source of irritants for decades among them due to some grey areas in their respective duties and powers.

Licensing and certification of officers
THE two bills approved by the House and the Senate on third reading have practically similar salient provisions.  
    House Bill No. 3766, originally authored by Angkla Partylist Rep. Jesulito Manalo seeks to empower MARINA to “assume all powers and functions of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) relative to the issuance, validation, verification, correction, revocation or cancellation of certificates of competency, endorsement, proficiency and documentary evidence required of all seafarers and all such other matters pertaining to the implementation of the STCW Convention.”  
    Specifically for PRC, which currently regulates the two marine professions: deck officers and marine engineers, the bill explicitly states that “all powers, duties and functions of the PRC on examination, licensing and certification system for marine deck and engine officers as provided in Republic Act No. 8544, otherwise known as the Philippine Merchant Marine Officers Act of 1998, shall henceforth be exercised by the MARINA.”
    To effect these wide ranging changes, the Malacañang-certified bill is amending RA 8544; MARINA would now be in charge of administering the examination and licensing for the two professions and the issuance of the COCs to deck and engineer officers.  
    The agency’s authority would extend beyond the marine officers to include ratings, which is currently regulated by TESDA.  
    Under the bill, MARINA would also regulate able-bodied deck and engine ratings including the following:
    1. monitoring and verification of compliance with the standards of Ratings;
    2. harmonization of the procedures  periodic evaluation, assessment and monitoring activities undertaken by accredited institutions with registered programs for Ratings; and
    3. issuance of Certificate of Proficiency (COP) to Ratings

Closing down maritime programs
AS for CHED, the counterpart measure Senate Bill No. 2043 puts MARINA as the chairman of the Technical Panel on Maritime Education (TPME) of the agency.
    Previously, MARINA was only a member, and later became vice-chairman due to the MOU, of the TPME which, among others, formulates, reviews and recommends to the Commission en banc all policies, standards, and guidelines for maritime education, including curricula, facilities and guidelines to ensure compliance with the Convention.  
    TPME is also tasked to recommend to CHED the closure or phase out of maritime programs of schools that failed to comply with the STCW standards.
    At the Senate floor, when the bill was in the period of individual amendment early this month, Sen. Pia Cayetano however introduced an amendment that would ensure
SEE P14
MARINA makes more rooms for COP processing

AMID the mounting flak the agency has been receiving lately over the processing of Certificates of Proficiency, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) announced fresh initiatives to address the problem.
    In an interview early this month, Atty. Jabeth Dacanay, chief of staff of MARINA Administrator Maximo Mejia, Jr., disclosed several steps that the agency had taken to ease the processing of applications for COPs that continue to flood its STCW Office.
    She said Administrator Mejia had freed the 6th floor of the MARINA office to augment the limited space for the processing of COPs.

6th floor
“WE moved the divisions of the STCW Office from the 6th floor, those that do not have much interaction with seafarers to make (the entire) 6th floor another processing unit,” she said.
    Among those that have been moved out from the 6th floor were the Quality Management System (QMS) Office, Accreditation Office, and Monitoring Office which oversees training providers. They were transferred to Jemarson Bldg. which was offered to MARINA for free by Capt. Gaudencio Morales, president of the PMMA Alumni Association.
    “Wala naman silang masyadong (They do not have much) interaction with the seafarers. So we moved them to other offices; so dito talagang processing and certification area lang tulad sa 7th floor (so this floor will just be a processing and certification area only just like the 7th floor).
    With the additional space, Atty. Dacanay said the agency is hoping it could almost double the number of applications for COPs being processed.
    “Kasi dati 6th floor walang processing doon. Kasi andun yung mga division ng STCW Office; ang talagang processing unit lang ay yung 7th floor (because before there was no processing on the 6th, only on the 7th floor).”
    The agency transformed the 6th floor into a processing area “para madoble yung capacity namin.  Medyo maliit ng konti yung 6th pero (to double our capacity; 6th floor is a bit smaller but) we are hopeful of at least 80 percent increase (in processed applications).”

18,000 to 20,000 applications a week
FROM between 300 to 400 applications a day before the deluge of COP applications in September last year, the STCW Office improved its capacity to around 4,000 a week.
    Later, with the addition of the 7th floor, the office further enhanced its capacity to over 10,000 applications a week. The long queues, however, remain.  
    With the use of the 6th floor, “kaya siguro mga 18,000 to 20,000 applications a week; iyon ang tinatarget talaga kasi parang idu-duplicate mo lang sa 6th floor ang nangyayari sa 7th floor (we could perhaps increase it to 18,000 to 20,000 applications a week; that’s the target since you would be duplicating on the 6th floor what’s happening on the 7th).
    She said there are 8 evaluators on the 7th and there would be 6 to 7 evaluation desks on the 6th floor.
    Administrator Mejia’s chief of staff said that MARINA is just waiting for the chairs which the agency had procured to make the 6th floor fully operational on the third week of this month.

Seafarer Center
IN addition, Atty. Dacanay revealed that Administrator Mejia has met with executives of the nation’s biggest chain of shopping malls, SM, for possible use of the Seafarer Center located on the 5th floor of SM Manila near Manila City Hall.
    The Seafarer Center, which was the offshoot of a partnership between the Joint Manning Group (JMG) and SM, is being used occasionally for job fairs but most of the time the place is largely empty. Apparently the place was tendered by JMG to MARINA for extra space to be used for COP purposes.
    “Yes we’ve taken the offer. In fact, SM people met with the Administrator and they’ve shown the layout and they gave Administrator Mejia a week to comment on the proposal,” the lady lawyer of MARINA informed Seaway.
    There were a few hitches, however. In order to move the processing of COPs at the Seafarer Center, MARINA has to install a firewall to ensure the security and integrity of the process. The firewall will cost around P300,000.
    “Hindi naman sa sinasabi kong walang pera ang gobyerno (I’m not saying that the government has no funds).  In fact, we have in our budget P1.1 million for capital outlay for the STCW Office.
    “If we would buy the firewall at around P300,000 and another P300,000 for back up, it is still within the P1.1 million budget,” she said.
    “Kaso sa gobyerno, hindi ganoon kadali (But in government, it’s not that easy) since in the budget, it said that the fund will be used for furniture and fixtures. The fund utilization is very specific.”
    The same is true with the P46.5 million earlier released by the Budget department for STCW. “The money is for capacity building and training of personnel for monitoring of training providers,” Atty. Dacanay explained.
    Nonetheless, she is optimistic that Administrator Mejia, who is in London attending the IMO HTW Committee meeting, would be able to address the funding problem as soon as he gets home.

Dialogue
The delays in the processing of COPs precipitated a dialogue between industry groups and government agencies.
    Last January 23, officers of industry groups led by MMAP and FILSCAPTS and officials of government agencies led by MARINA sat down to discuss the 5-point agenda proposed by MMAP and FILSCAPTS leaders.
    Their discussion zeroed in on the following concerns and proposed recommendations:
    1. Long delays in the processing and issuance of COPs
    2. Lack of consultation in the drafting of MARINA circulars affecting  seafarers.
    3. Corrupt practices in the issuance of STCW certificates.
    4. Unprofessional conduct of goverment regulators in dealing with seafarers
    5. Unregulated training fees.
    The groups mentioned pertinent details and specific instances to substantiate their complaints.  
    Top MARINA officials led by Administrator Max Mejia Jr. was present at the dialogue. Aside from MARINA’s, officials from CHED, TESDA, and PRC were present at the meeting including Angkla Party-list Rep. Jess Manalo.
    Leaders of the Joint Manning Groups were there as well as seafarers unions and alumni associations of noted maritime schools.
    Unfortunately, members of the maritime press were barred from covering the event held at the Manila Yacht Club.  
    MMAP President Capt. Rodolfo Aspillaga informed Seaway that minutes of the dialogue had already been drafted, but refused to release  the document untill it  is duly signed by concerned people.
    On the part of MARINA, Atty, Dacanay said MARINA is already preparing a response to the 5-point agenda raised by industry groups.  
    The chief of staff of Administrator Mejia vowed to disclosed  MARINA’s Plan of Action as soon as it became official. 

 
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