CEBU CITY, Philippines- Most shipping owners in Cebu now belong to a unified group but they openly expressed their apprehension on the pending bills in Congress that would allow one-hundred percent foreign ownership of vessels that would ply the domestic routes.
They are apprehensive that Chinese investors will soon dominate the local maritime industry that would pose a threat to national security.
“The issue here is really the national security aspect which is, in times of war, you commissioned the vessels so what if they all go back to China so nothing will remain here,” Lucio Lim, Jr., the Chairman of the newly established Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA) told the local press here.
No less than former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, the PCSA Chairman Emeritus came over yesterday, August 16, 2019, to formally induct the PCSA officers at the Casino Espanol de Cebu who aired her optimism on the vibrancy of the group.
“It”s important day today for the industry, this is a major milestone for your robust shipping industry in the Visayas and Mindanao because as (Lucio) Jun Lim said earlier from your three different groups you are one, one umbrella organization and therefore being one you’re stronger. Your voice is stronger and you will better advance the improvement of the shipping industry in our society,” Arroyo, who is largely credited for the establishment of the
Philippine Nautical Highway System that usher in the voyages of several Roll-on Roll-of (Ro-Ro) vessels said.
The former President bared that soon the PCSA will be part of a summit with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) on the Maritime Industry Integrated Development Plan as President Rodrigo Duterte will also open up new Ro-Ro routes in the country.
“But now we’re happy again under President Duterte. We have renewed vigor because his administration is again further improving connectivity through additional Ro-Ro ports and I’m happy to hear that Marina has drawn a Maritime Industry Integrated Development Plan. I’m happy to hear that you had a mini-summit with them and I’m happy to hear that you will have a summit soon where Marina will present its integrated development plan. and I’m happy that Marina will do that in a summit with the PCSA now established. I’m sure the industry will have a strong voice in whatever reactions you will have to that plan,” Arroyo said.
PCSA President Paul Rodriguez for his part said that it will do more harm than good if foreigners will be allowed 100% ownership of shipping lines in the country.
“If we don’t control this, the maritime industry also will soon be taken over. So we need the understanding of the legislators to please open their eyes, open their minds and it’s not just about the money that they want foreign investment to come in to play in the country because it would do more harm than good. So we would like to convey this to our legislators to please listen to the stakeholders so that they will have a better understanding of what is the participation of the maritime transport industry in our society. We are very very concern about this,” Rodriguez said.
For Lim, allowing foreigners to own shipping lines might also affect the apprenticeship programs of aspiring seafarers and that foreign crews of vessels could also dominate than the locals.
“There is also the issue of the crew, okay. How can you, what if they say I want the chief engineer and Captain to be a Chinese? So can we prevent that? What happens to the training of our OFW? How would be the apprentice mates?,” Lim said further while admitting that most ships in the country have engines and spare parts that are China made.
The apprehensions of the PCSA officials came as four Senators wanted to amend the Public Service Act (PSA) to lift the restriction of ownership of sectors that are engaged in public services, among them, transportation and telecommunications.
Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Grace Poe have separate pending bills for the purpose.
In the lower house, six pending bills on amending the PSA are also being tackled under House Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by AAMBIS- OWA Rep. Sharon Garin.
The PCSA has been the group of the former Philippine Roro Operators Association (PROA), the Visayan Association of Ferry Boat and Coastwise Ship-owners Operators (VAFCSO) and the United Trampers Association of the Philippines (UTAP).
Lim who is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lite Shipping Corp. used to lead the VAFCSO while Rodriguez of Super Shuttle Ferry is President of UTAP.
The other elected PCSA officials are Benson Go of Seensam Shipping as vice president for cargo shipping; Vicente Montenegro Jr. of Montenegro Shipping as vice president for passenger shipping, Pio Serafin Fulache of Medallion Shipping as treasurer and Teresa C. Abad of 2GO Group as the corporate secretary.
All six along with three others have been elected as members of the PCSA board of trustees. The other members of the board are Arthur Kenneth Sy of Trans Asia Shipping Lines, Jose Emery Roble of Roble Shipping and Alexander Cohon of Lapu-Lapu Shipping.
The Cebu based PCSA is at par with the Luzon based Phil. Interisland Shipping Association (PISA).
MARINA administrator Narciso Vingson, Jr. has allowed that like PISA, the PCSA will be given non-voting observer status in the MARINA./AAJ