The House of Representatives has approved a bill that aims to upgrade the skills of harbor pilots to enhance the safety of ships that pass through ports and channels.
House Bill 9209 aims to provide for a regulatory framework for open harbor pilotage service in the Philippines.
As referred to in the bill, pilotage service is the act of conducting, navigating or maneuvering a vessel to or from berth or anchorage, along channels, basins, rivers and estuaries, including all related activities thereof.
The proposed “Open Harbor Pilotage Services Act,” authored by Rep. Jesulito Manalo of ANGKLA Party-list, declares that the State recognizes harbor pilotage services play a vital role in the efficient operation of ports in ensuring the smooth flow of maritime commerce and safe transport of persons in avoiding maritime accidents, and in helping the maritime environment.
Pursuant to this, the State shall adopt an open pilotage policy to regulate pilotage services that comply with international standards and supervise the professional conduct of harbor pilots.
The bill aims to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of pilotage services through their rationalization as well as the regulation of their fees and charges.
It also aims to professionalize and upgrade the skills of harbor pilots and guarantee navigational safety and environmental protection at all times.
In his explanatory note, Manalo noted how the country, being an archipelago, continues to develop as a maritime nation and how its transport system and economy are dependent generally on seaborne trade.
“There is a need to ensure, through legislation, the safe navigation of waterborne commerce by adopting as a State policy the proper regulation of the pilotage services by the government. The conduct of pilotage service is also a vital function of maritime travel that directly affects the efficient operations of the port, the overall cost of transport and distribution of goods, safety of the travelling public and even the protection of the maritime environment,” he said.
To fulfill the provisions of the bill, the Pilotage Board shall be established, which shall be comprised of government port authorities, bodies or entities.
The Philippine Ports Authority, through its general manager, shall serve as ex-officio chairman of the Board.
The Board shall undertake the following duties and functions: a) promulgate rules and regulations needed for the enforcement and administration of pilotage service and conduct of harbor pilots; b) conduct studies and researches related to the maritime industry; c) establish a comprehensive training program for harbor pilots; and d) recommend adjustments in pilotage fees, rates and charges, among others.
HB 9209 proposes that there shall be an open pilotage policy in every pilotage district in the country.
Upon the recommendation of the Pilotage Board, the authorities shall have the power to prescribe and impose rates and charges for pilotage services rendered in these districts.
With this, a pilotage organization or an individual harbor port shall be entitled to a government share of at least 10 percent of its gross income, in consideration of the grant of such privilege and for the use of the port facilities.
Meanwhile, the measure also provides the following qualifications of a harbor pilot :1) a Filipino citizen; 2) not more than 55 years old at the time of application; 3) with sound physical and mental condition and of good moral character; and 3) a holder of a pilotage license issued by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
Moreover, it provides that the accreditation of a qualified harbor pilot shall have a term of five years, which may be renewed until the pilot reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65 years old.
Given that the rules, regulations and procedures promulgated by the Board shall also cover the conduct, duties, responsibilities and discipline of harbor pilots, all harbor pilots shall be directed to observe the terms and condition set in the pilotage license and accreditation, at all times.
Violators of this proposed Act shall be penalized with a fine of P100,000 up to P500,000 and suspension of the accreditation from 3 to 12 years, or its cancellation.
Additionally, the concerned port authority may also recommend to the MARINA the revocation of license of an erring harbor pilot.
The provisions of the measure shall apply to all harbor pilots and pilotage organizations or persons rendering pilotage services licensed by the MARINA and accredited by the port authorities, whether owned and managed by the government or a private entity.