THE Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) on Sunday urged stakeholders in the local shipping industry to continue taking part in a dialogue despite the cancellation of the ship owners' holding of a shipping holiday scheduled to take place Monday.

At the same time, DOTC Spokesman and Undersecretary for Maritime Transport Thomson Lantion said they have already formed a technical working group composed of representatives from the shipping operators, the DOTC and attached agencies to study the policies set by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) under its head, Ma. Elena Bautista.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

Local shipping operators have questioned the Marina policies, saying it is unfair to them.

“We are asking all stakeholders to actively continue dialogue and collaboration with the government regarding the issues affecting the maritime industry so that we will be able to resolve it,” Lantion said.

Among the policies questioned by the operators was the Marina requirement for commercial vessels to have new life jacket, which they said are expected to cost millions of pesos and would render current life vest unusable.

They also demanded that Malacañang remove Bautista from the agency, saying what is needed is someone who has sufficient knowledge about the shipping industry and its concerns.

Ed Pastrana, spokesman of the coalition of ship owners and president of the Philippine Roro Operators Association (PROA), earlier said they want Bautista removed from office because of her “defective memorandum circulars” and inability to address the problems in the maritime industry.

Joining the PROA in the call are the Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators, United Trampers Association of the Philippines, Lighterage Association of the Philippines, Metro Manila Tugs, Boat and Barges Owners Association and the Alliance of Philippine Fishing Federation.

Pastrana said their group commands over 500 vessels that transport passengers and cargo all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has suspended the implementation of the Marina circulars, prompting the ship owners to drop plans for a shipping holiday Monday.

Aside from the ship owners, a major seafarer’s group had also protested the Marina directive, saying it was done without the benefit of a proper consultation with the stakeholders.

Eng. Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), said Bautista’s directive though “sweeping and bold” are misplaced solutions to address the problem of maritime safety enforcement in the country.

He added that Bautista’s directives were apparently meant to divert the flak she has been getting from the recent maritime disasters. (AH/Sunnex)