Mindanao lawmaker seeks bigger funding for PMMA
The Manila Times
Maritime And Logistics
A LAWMAKER from Mindanao wants the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) to get a substantially higher budget by converting it to Philippine National Maritime Academy (PNMA), focusing not only on producing marine officers but graduates for the broader economy as well as defense and law enforcement needs of the country. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill (HB) 6503 seeking to upgrade and broaden PMMA’s present mandate under Republic Act (RA) 3680, its original charter enacted in 1963, which now serves as stumbling block for the nation’s premier maritime institution to gain access to more government funding. Rodriguez explained that although “PMMA is not just responding to its merchant or commercial needs anymore, unfortunately, having a limited merchant marine image due to its name from 1963 (RA 3680) reduces its ability to get more funding from the national government for its requirements.” As former PMMA Alumni Association president Capt. Victor del Prado, who fully concurs with Rodriguez, explained, there are so many local maritime higher education institutions (MHEIs) like PMMA. There are about 90 MHEIs accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) nationwide, offering BS Marine Transportation (BSMT) and BS Marine Engineering (BSMarE) programs. “Legislators are now questioning justifications of PMMA budgets. Why [does the] government still support it when many other MHEIs are producing the same graduates?” asked the president of the Society of Filipino Ship Captains. With the passage of HB 6503, the need for the additional budget can readily be justified since the PNMA would not only be producing marine officers for oceangoing ships but maritime professionals for “international and national maritime industry as ship surveyors, shipping/crewing Managers, port managers, maritime academic institution deans.” It shall also produce technical personnel for the Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, National Coast Watch Council, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and other maritimerelated agencies. At the same time, the proposed successor of PMMA would also produce qualified officers for the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and Philippine National Police Maritime Command as part of its expanded mandate to serve as “the third official Service Academy” to help build up defense and law enforcement capabilities of the country. Still, on merchant marine, the proposed bill mandates the new PNMA to produce graduates not only proficient in navigation and seamanship but skilled as well in the use of advanced information and communications technology; and educated in maritime cybersecurity, maritime software development and other advanced technologies being used now onboard. Its marine officer graduates would already be ready and comfortable in a paperless operation and prepared for the advent of the arrival of commercial autonomous ships in the not-too-distant future. The bill, which has yet to be certified as urgent by the executive brand, has to pass through the usually tedious legislative process before it becomes law. Rodriguez, who also authored the law RA 11782 that established the PMMA campus in Cagayan, is on his fifth term as a member of the House of Representatives; some stakeholders believe he can muster enough support for HB 6503 from his fellow lawmakers to ensure its passage in the 19th Congress.