Solon seeks to consolidate maritime agencies

MANILA—A lawmaker is seeking to consolidate the “fragmented” admiralty and maritime laws in a bid to curb maritime accidents in the country.

Representative Rodolfo G. Biazon authored House Bill 1156 that seeks to place under one agency the various maritime bureaus and agencies “to provide a coherent direction for maritime development.”

Biazon, chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said the current maritime administration functions of government are thinly spread among 14 bureaus and agencies under seven departments.

“With this prevailing structure, the country’s maritime administration has remained fragmented. This has resulted in bureaucratic entanglement, functional overlaps and conflicting maritime laws and regulations,” he said.

“These in turn have stymied the private sector’s dynamism and virtually hamstrung the maritime industry,” Biazon said.

This fragmentation and overlapping functions of the maritime bodies resulted to the “dismal and ineffective implementation of the safety standards and regulations mandated by the country’s laws and international agreements in which the Philippines is a signatory,” he said.

“The numerous sea accidents and tragedies in recent Philippine history is a testament to the failure of maritime administration in the country and the glaring effect of such fragmentation and overlapping of functions,” Biazon stressed.

He cited Executive Orders No. 125 and 125-A as examples of “obsolete and unresponsive laws that continue to govern the maritime industry.”

Laws such as the Public Service Act, Code of Commerce, Tariff Code, Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations and the charters of agencies involved, among others, have largely affected the country’s maritime administration, since these abound in ambiguities, Biazon said.

These have also fostered protectionism of turf among the concerned agencies, he added.

Biazon said his proposed measure seeks to correct the problems that greatly affect the maritime sector.

Under the measure otherwise known as the “Maritime Administration Act,” a Philippine Maritime Commission will be created as the lead government agency in charge of planning and coordination of maritime transportation, supervision of maritime business and ocean affairs in general.

The commission will provide comprehensive policy guidance for the promotion, development, management, trade and utilization of marine transportation, port systems and other related activities under the maritime industry.

It will formulate a comprehensive and practicable Maritime Industry Development Program for a five-year period and review and update the same annually.

Also, the commission is mandated to assess, review and, in coordination with relevant government agencies, provide direction to research and development programs pertaining to the maritime industry, including identification of sources of marine resources and determination of their commercial feasibility for development and utilization.

“It is now time to put an end to the fragmentation and overlapping of functions of the different government agencies and create a body that will be the main and central agency concerned with maritime administration in the country.” Biazon said.

“Hopefully, this bill will solve the multifarious problems plaguing the administration of the maritime sector,” he said.

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