Fired Marina chief: Foreign trips approved by DoTr, not junkets

MANILA, Philippines — Marcial Amaro III on Friday said that foreign trips that he was fired as Maritime Industry Authority head for were authorized by the Transportation department and were not excessive because of the nature of the agency.
Speaking on ANC's "Headstart", Amaro said that six of the 21 trips that he went on since being appointed in August 2016 were for the International Maritime Organization, where the Philippines is on the executive council.
"We are actually providing security to our seafarers. There are other countries that are after our position as a major provider of seafarers," he said, adding the Philippines is committed to attending IMO meetings.
He also attended a scholarship for maritime agency heads in the region given by Singapore in 2016. In that year, he also went to Denmark to meet with its shipping association.
Amaro said that of his 21 trips in his one and a half years in office, 15 were paid for by government and six were sponsored. He said that the trips have helped bring about around 50 bilateral agreements on shipping.
"MARINA is an international organization... We are a specialized organization of the government and maritime is an international trade," he said to justify the trip.
He said that the trips were within the agency's mandate and were not excessive — the budget, he said was around $300 a day, including food and accommodations — among the new guidelines that the Palace has issued for foreign trips.
Asked by host Karen Davila whether the trips were beneficial to the country, Amaro responded: "I would say precisely yes."
The Palace disclosed Amaro's termination Thursday after days of speculation and a delayed announcement.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Amaro made six foreign trips in 2016 and 18 in 2017. Of the 24 trips, only three were reportedly financed by the inviting organizations, and the rest shouldered by taxpayers.
"It would seem that he had an average of at least two trips in a month for the past one-and-a-half years," Roque added.
Amaro said that a supposed complaint against him that was sent to the Office of the President has been disavowed by the Alliance of Marina Employees. He said that he met with Marina employees on the first day of 2018 and "they said it is not from their ranks."
He said that the Palace seemed to have taken the letter at face value.
"I work at the pleasure of the president. I just work and whatever is the decision of the president [I will accept it]," he said. 
Amaro is the third Duterte administration employee to lose his job over foreign trips. Terry Ridon was removed from the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor for going abroad "too much too soon." Elba Cruz was also told to resign as president of the Development Academy of the Philippines over mismanagement allegations, including allegedly going on monthly trips.



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