President FVR an advocate for the maritime industry

Last week, President Fidel V. Ramos, 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines, was laid to rest. The tribute from people who had the good opportunity to work and deal with him as a boss, leader and friend was overwhelming as they shared their memories of what a man and gentleman he was. People who hadn’t had personal encounters with him, however, were content to contemplate what it was like during his presidency.

One of the most important concerns of the ordinary citizen when FVR took over the government was the electricity crisis with blackouts occurring across the country. At that time I was with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and power generating barges were introduced in the country as a practical solution to the power shortage. For many, this meant uninterrupted electricity at home and in the workplace.

I can appreciate the many anecdotal memories of FVR being an early riser and his workaholic. In my daily trips from my home in San Pedro, Laguna to Manila, it was very often that I saw the presidential convoy very early in the morning as it negotiated the southern highway; I think FVR returned to Ayala Alabang even though he was performing his duties in Malacañang. Taking the roads early meant that his convoy did not need to clear the roads to let the convoy pass; he figures it was his approach to get rid of the “wang-wang” mentality.

FVR had a clear vision for reviving the Philippine economy and the maritime industry was an integral part of that. His pole-vaulting policy to uplift the economy covered the various sectors of government, including the shipping industry. He launched the multi-sector maritime summit held at the PPL building on United Nations Avenue to find ways to bring the industry to the pole and establish strategies to attract investment in Philippine maritime transport.

A concrete step taken by Marina to support the pole vault policy was the deregulation of inland shipping. It was during the time of FVR that Marina abandoned the “grandfather rule” in granting authority to provide shipping services.

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The prior operator rule protected those serving domestic routes that contributed to the deterioration of shipping. The deregulation policy has facilitated the introduction of steel-hulled ships and fast craft on major shipping routes such as Batangas-Mindoro Island and the Albay-Catanduanes and Cebu-Dumaguete-Dipolog shipping routes. It has also seen the entry of new investment into the shipping sector and the introduction of larger and faster ships. Passenger safety and comfort received urgent attention during this time.

The maritime industry was part of FVR’s vision of globalization and was therefore on his agenda even when traveling abroad. FVR even convinced one of Greece’s largest shipping companies to accept a member of marina staff for a two-week observation and study visit in 1997 to learn more about the development and management a register of ships.

This study trip helped to develop a number of action steps that this archipelago must take if it wants to develop the merchant fleet of the Philippines. A set of legislative and policy reforms such as the clear definition of the constitutional provision on “public service” have been included in the proposed action steps.

It was in 1998, when FVR ended its mandate, 24 good years passed without any follow-up having been given by the successive administrations. The amending law on the civil service law, perhaps belated, is welcome and should be a good start.

Indeed, President Fidel V. Ramos, with his forward-looking vision for the Philippines, left a legacy to the shipping industry with the policy of deregulation in the shipping sector for which the industry should be grateful. Not to mention the famous “CSW” (complete staff work) adopted today in the civil government.

Thank you FVR.