House panel OKs shipping bill

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives Committee on Transportation last week approved a bill that will provide for a single classification of all vessels plying inland waters and open seas, amid fears of creating a monopoly in the shipping industry.

Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, vice chairman of the House Committee on Transportation who temporarily took over the chairmanship of Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, adjourned the hearing after his colleagues approved House Bill 460 of Angkla Rep. Jesulito Manalo.

Party-list Angkla, or anchor, represents Filipino seafarers who contribute about $5.8 billion to the local economy annually.

Reps. Rodel Batocabe of party-list Ako Bicol and Raul del Mar however, have expressed misgivings about the measure, with Batocabe warning that removing the five other classifications and giving too much power to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) may result in a monopoly.

Manuel Tiuseco of Orient Register of Shipping Lines and Alexander Cohon of the Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators Inc. manifested their vehement opposition to the Manalo bill pending before the Sarmiento committee, raising among other things the wide opportunities for corruption in the proposed move.

“I can just imagine the rush to Marina! This will create a monopoly and this is giving blanket authority to Marina. So what will be the check? Why don’t you (stakeholders) unite? I’d rather have (a consolidated group) rather than favor only one,” Batocabe said.

Manalo said he is open to any suggestion, as long as it would ensure the safety of ships and ultimately passengers. “I’m willing to amend provisions of my bill. It’s not money we’re talking about here because safety is our paramount concern,” he said.

“(The stakeholders) can make a consortium. Everybody should get together under one global standard. We are willing to take that, provided that this should pass global standards,” Manalo said.

In response, Del Mar said, “I’m glad that the author is open to suggestions. It’s because I disagree with giving it totally to Marina. It’s enough that they accredit, but I’m against a monopoly. If six to 10 firms can comply with requirements, why not?”

Marina administrator Maximo Banares and Transportation Assistant Secretary Fernando Juan Perez have expressed full support for the bill as well as Samuel Lim of the Society of Naval Architects and Engineers.

“We should have only one standard for safety and this should not be for sale. We should help Marina implement this, and Marina needs a partner to implement this, so that we can also help those who have smaller boats,” Lim told the lawmakers.

Banares was also receptive to the idea of a “consortium,” but underscored the need for a law on this. He pointed out that Marina administrators can come and go, but a fixed statute is needed to provide order and efficiency in the shipping industry.

Reps. Winston Castelo of Quezon City and Micaela Violago of Nueva Ecija support the bill.

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