Marina to go after strikers

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THE Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) yesterday warned Cebu-based shipping operators of the risk of losing their franchises if they join the planned province-wide strike on March 1.

Marina Administrator Maria Elena Bautista said a strike violates the provisions of their certificates of public convenience.

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“It is clear in the conditions of the award of certificates of public convenience (CPC) that operators are not allowed to disrupt public services. The award of the CPC by government to any private shipping operator is a privilege and not a right. As such, it may be revoked once it is no longer deserved,” Bautista said.

This developed after reports came out that the Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators (VAFCSO) planned to launch protest actions culminating in a province-wide strike in reaction to the memorandum circulars issued by the agency that promoted higher safety standards for shipping operators.

VAFCSO members called the Marina circulars unreasonable.

But Bautista said in opposing the Marina circulars that promote the safety of inter-island ferry passengers, shipping operators only show they are against improved safety standards and concerned only with profits instead of the safety of their passengers.

But Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said ship owners have a right to protest and the Cebu City Government will not do anything to try to dissuade them.

“It’s a sign of protest, so let them protest. They have a point. I don’t think it will affect our economy if we have a one-day holiday,” he said.

And while he does not agree with the ship owners, the mayor said they have the freedom to express their grievance through a protest action.

“I will not do anything as long as people know in advance so they can schedule around it (transport holiday),” Osmeña said yesterday.

But Bautista said she won’t hesitate, upon the approval of the Marina board, to revoke the CPCs of operators who make good their threat to paralyze shipping routes.

VAFCSO is composed of Kenneth Sy of Trans Asia Shipping Corp. as president; Alex Cohon, vice president for passenger; and Eduardo Gonzales, vice president for cargo.

The VAFCSO board is composed of Pepita Young of Jadestar Shipping Corp., Hector Wong, Francisco Jarque, Jose Emery Roble of Roble Shipping Lines, John Kho, Joel Valer and Chester Cokaliong of Cokaliong Shipping Lines.

The other VAFCSO members are Lite Shipping Corp., Roly Shipping Corp. and Palacio Shipping Lines.

For short haul Visayas-Mindanao (Vismin) routes, VAFCSO reportedly has 60 to 70 percent share of the market (passengers and cargoes).

This does not include the Manila-Cebu route.

The Philippine Roll on-Roll Off (Ro-Ro) Association members cover almost 80 percent the country’s nautical highway.

Bautista said the memorandum circulars opposed by shipping operators include the implementation of protection and indemnity cover, as stated in Republic Act (RA) 9295; greater accessibility of life jackets to passengers on inter-island ships; higher qualifications on crew competency; and increase in fines and penalties for those who violate Marina’s rules and regulations in the promotion of safety of life and properties at sea.

She said the issue is public safety and not profitability.

“Safety costs a lot of money and these shipping operators only want to save money to make more profit at the expense of the safety of thousands of inter-island shipping passengers in the country,” Bautista said.

However, a VAFCSO member, who refused to be named, said Marina is strict in enforcing these policies but does not support the shipping industry such as a subsidy, unlike what other countries do.

The source said the government gives fuel discounts to passenger jeepneys and tax-free fuel to airline companies but does not extend such benefits to the shipping sector.

Bautista said the Marina circulars are in accordance with existing laws.

Some of these are Marina Circulars 2009-01, 2009-03, 2009-13 and 2009-22 or the Rules Governing the Mandatory Marine Insurance to Cover Legal Liabilities Arising Out of Any Maritime Related Accidents (Protection and Indemnity (P/I) Cover).

The Marine Board, composed of the Department of Transportation and Communication, Office of the President, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Finance, Department of Justice and Development Bank of the Philippines, among others, initially approved the three-phase implementation of the P/I Cover to ensure that adequate marine insurance coverage against legal liabilities and expenses are secured to answer for claims for damage or compensation to risks not covered by existing regulations.

This move, Bautista said, complies with Section 15, Chapter V of RA 9295 otherwise known as the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004.

The law states that Marina has the power to require every ship operator to obtain such other compulsory insurance coverage necessary to adequately cover claims and damages.(EOB/RHM)

Marina go after strikers

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