Odd activities at CAAP, must-do's for MARINA
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - May 1, 2017 - 12:00am

Something fishy is going on at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines central building on NAIA Road, Pasay City. One fine noon last Mar. an assistant director general ordered the locks changed in a room occupied by another ADG who was then on sick leave. Puzzled with the incident, personnel holding office there were driven out. They are from the Task Force on Inventory and Valuation, and the Aerodrome Development and Maintenance Service's Surveying Division.

Sensitive records of CAAP real property also are kept in the room. Among such papers are of lands on which stand the airports in Roxas City, Capiz; Talibon, Bohol; Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental; and Cuyo, Busuanga, and Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Fraudsters claiming ownership of those lands previously had tried to collect purported overdue compensation from the government's conversion into airports. They were foiled only because the Task Force through the years painstakingly researched the cases. On file are the last remaining original certified copies of documents – the best evidence that the government already had paid for the lands decades ago. Notoriously sloppy in records keeping, the courts and other agencies had lost the documents to fire, floods, rot, theft, and negligence.

Was it mere coincidence that, one week after the forcible eviction of the Task Force, a person came to the CAAP inquiring how to collect P73 million for a Lot No. 1331, now part of the Roxas City Airport terminal and tarmac? One Task Force old-timer told the inquirer that someone had tried to collect P26 million for the same lot sometime in 2009, but was rejected because the government had settled the payments with finality as far back as the airport construction in 1962. Whereupon, the latter went to see a CAAP higher-up.

Malacañang has been informed of the dramatis personae involved in this potential scam-in-the-making. Letters officially have been exchanged. Let's hope they don’t get lost in the bureaucratic maze. Some parties are making it look like the issue is just petty office politics.

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The Maritime Industry Authority has yet to act on three serious night sea incidents within two weeks involving one big shipping line. One ship caught fire, another ran aground, the third's engines conked out mid-voyage. There were several injuries, not to forget the hours-long agony of passengers lost in the dark and spoiled perishable cargo. Criminally negligent were the onboard and ground crews. Yet MARINA merely suspended for two weeks the ships’ operating licenses. That's not real penalty. It would take that same time anyway to fix the fire, hull, and engine damages.

Obviously MARINA must ground the shipping line's entire fleet for inspection and retraining. That's what land transport authorities do to a bus line’s fleet after a major road collision. Aviation officials too ground all aircraft of similar make or an entire airline after a crash.

Three other must-do’s for MARINA to exact safety and discipline:

(1) Insurance. Aside from insurance coverage of P200,000 per passenger, Protection and Indemnity (P&I) too must be required of ship owners. That way they can be protected against instant bankruptcy; passengers would not be made to wait decades before indemnity for deaths and injuries in sea disasters. P&I can shield ship owners in case of crew injury, illness or death; cargo loss; wreck removal; sea pollution; and damage to fixed and floating objects, like docks and jetties. They take their sweet time indemnifying aggrieved parties, unless pressured by the government or mass media. They shirk from wreck removal, oil spill cleanup, and wharf damage, leaving the government to handle the hundred-million-peso costs. P&I assures swift solutions. In registering cars, owners are made to buy third-party liability insurance. More so ships, which carry hundreds of times more passengers and cargo.

(2) Age of ships. There is no maximum age for roll on-roll off craft. Even half-century-old vessels presently ferry passengers and cargo. Buses older than 15 years automatically are disenfranchised. Why not ships that put at risk hundreds of times more lives and goods?

(3) Supervision. Despite MARINA annual examination and Coast Guard inspections before each voyage, no one actually guarantees a vessel's good condition. International shipping has entities that oversee the maintenance of ships. These also are 12 Classification Societies, adept in assessing various fields, like crew and management fitness, status of ship parts, safety and comfort, and clean sea operations. Fares and fees are set based on ship classes. There are seven domestic classification societies. Ship owners sneer at them supposedly for incompetence and inexperience, and are hired only for paper compliance with MARINA rules. As a testament to the local societies’ incredibility, ships classed under them generally are rejected by insurers. That's why most domestic vessels are uninsured. MARINA must check the checkers.

The Dept. of Transport cannot afford more sea disasters, for which the Philippines is infamous, to do what's right.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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