THE National Coalition of Shipping Organizations, of which the Cebu-based Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators (VAFCSO) is a member, will push through with its plan to hold a “shipping holiday” on March 1 if the government will not replace Maritime Industry Authority (Maritime) Administrator Maria Elena Bautista.

Lawyer Dexter Biñan of Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, legal counsel of VAFCSO, said that from today until Feb. 28, they are open to dialogue with the Marina Board or Malacañang to discuss why they want Bautista removed.

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He added that they only oppose 10 of the 260 memorandum circulars on the Marina website because these were issued by Bautista without study and consultation with the shipping sector.

In an interview with radio dyLA, Biñan said the coalition, which counts six big shipping organizations nationwide as members, conducted a meeting and press conference in Manila yesterday to discuss their letter to President Arroyo.

“As we study Bautista’s policies, we can see that the present administrator has no experience on maritime matters. This may be the reason she just issued several memorandum circulars without consulting the maritime stakeholders,” Binañ said.

On a possible dialogue with authorities, Biñan said they would rather have the Office of the President settle the matter than the Marina Board because the Marina administrator is the subject of their complaint.

Earlier, Bautista said that upon approval by the Marina Board, she will not hesitate to cancel the franchise of any shipping company that will participate in the planned shipping holiday on March 1.

Bautista said a franchise is a privilege, and not a right. She said that a certificate of public convenience, popularly known as franchise, is for the convenience of the public and not for the convenience of shipping operators.

Bautista said that shipping operators who opposed the circulars, which were approved by the Marina Board after several maritime accidents that resulted in thousands of deaths, are those who want to maximize profit at the expense of the riding public.

The Marina Board is composed of officials from the Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of Finance, Department of Justice, Philippine Coast Guard, Office of the President and the Development Bank of the Philippines.