"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gordon to maritime gov't agencies: Don't wait for another sea tragedy

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon today said that the government must immediately work on modernizing the country's maritime industry and stressed that it should not wait for another sea tragedy before it gets the work done.

"Our country holds the unflattering distinction for having the world's worst peacetime maritime safety record. Whenever a ship sinks, we conduct investigations left and right, but nothing really happens. At the end of the day, after all the media hype, everything will be forgotten until another ship sinks, and the cycle of tolerance�tolerance for the incompetent, the unsafe and the greedy--goes on," Gordon said.

"We are not going to allow that anymore. This committee will make sure that something will happen out of this investigation. Our objective is to have a world class maritime industry, and we can start by ensuring the safety of passengers traveling in our seas," he added.

After five hearings on recent maritime disasters, the blue ribbon committee found out several lapses in the enforcement of maritime laws by government agencies and in the practice of safe sea operations by shipping companies.

Gordon said that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) ought to ensure that all laws relating to maritime operations and safety are being enforced properly.

He added that Marina and the Insurance Commission are not doing their job in protecting the public interest because they allowed the implementation of a rule that passengers who are not in the manifest but are victims of sea tragedies will not be covered by the insurance companies.

"We have to require 'no fault insurance'. That means when a sea vessel sinks, even if the passenger is not included in the manifest, as long as he is onboard that ship, the insurance company will have to pay. The Marina can immediately impose that in order to protect the public," the senator stressed.

"The Marina should impose stiff penalties for ships that do not provide complete passenger manifest. We have to change the system. The manifest must be submitted before departure," he added.

Gordon also said that the government must apply international standards for domestic shipping. On the other hand, private shipping lines should upgrade the level of standards of their vessels and they must hire certified captains and competent crew.

"We have to upgrade the shipping industry by providing incentives. When a company acquires new ships, they should be given incentives for that. There must also be a re-evaluation of major and minor patrons who man passenger ships. We should know their capabilities and they ought to be assigned to posts or duties equal to their nautical knowledge and capacity," Gordon said.

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