Marketing the Philippines in the global arena
SEATHROUGH ATTY. BRENDA V. PIMENTEL
The Manila Times
Maritime And Logistics
THE Philippines has identified and designated its “First Marketing Man” — no less than President BBM who continues to grace international and bilateral meetings in the past several months, with the next to take place in Japan. It is to the President of this archipelago that the Filipinos entrust the role of promoting the country as an excellent site for investment and other economic and leisure destinations. The Philippines is open for business indeed. One wonders: What precisely is the pitch for promoting the maritime industry? The seafarers’ continuous deployment in foreign-flagged ships was one distinct agenda during the EU-Asean dialogue held in Brussels, and that was not at all concerned with promoting the country’s ability to man ships. That was more of a request for the EU to give this archipelago the chance to put in order its compliance with the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). The President, of course, is not expected to provide the details of what makes the Philippines a good investment destination; it is for the heads of departments and agencies to expound the particulars of what makes the Philippines a better choice for investors. One could surmise the delegation members are prepared to discuss the many planned projects to develop infrastructure and technological innovations including transportation systems, tourism potentials, trading and agriculture, and the like. The President is upbeat every time he lands from his overseas trips with all the investment pledges made. It is here that real work starts. For the maritime transportation system, what could be the primary selling points? The amendment of the Public Service Act through the recently enacted Republic Act (RA) 11659 could provide a strong motivation for investors. The lifting of the cap on foreign equity participation is one convincing proof the Philippines is ready to accept foreign investment. The amendatory law has been passed; is the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) ready? The IRR will provide the direction by which the objectives of RA 11659 are to be realized; stakeholders and probably prospective investors are eagerly anticipating its issuance. For the maritime transportation system, there is a parallel bill that needs to be passed into law, the draft Philippine Ship Registry Act now pending in Congress. However, as in many other maritime bills filed and refiled, the prospect of it being passed is not certain. BBM should be alerted to have this bill certified as a priority as it builds on the opening of foreign equity participation on ships registered under the Philippine flag. Prominent flag states of the world boast of the attractiveness of their ship registries; the Philippines on the other hand, before the enactment of RA 11659 appears to be comfortable in producing Filipino seafarers to be deployed on ships of these big flag registries. This perspective must change; this archipelago is ready to build a ship registry that will create employment opportunities for the Filipino shipboard workforce (officers and ratings) on ships flying the Philippine flag. How soon this could be realized is in the hands of the legislators; a little push from the President could help!