Maritime mishaps loom, group warns
A non-government organization for the protection of Filipino seafarers has voiced its apprehension of the neglected maritime security in the country, saying the “long list of maritime mishaps” transpiring before and now in the country must be acted on by the government, or it should “be ready to face another catastrophe at sea, may it be an act of terrorism or sea tragedy.”
In a statement, Association of Marine Officers and Rating Inc. Seaman president Crescenciano “Butch” Elaba Jr. said it is true maritime security in the country “is being mistreated” and reiterated it is the pivotal reason why the Philippine maritime security is now “crashing down.”
“Have we learned before the past accidents that transpired in our Philippine waters? Did the government never learn in the accidents, mishaps in the past? We need a proactive approach rather than heedless approach, or acting and saving people only after the accident or terror attack such as piracy took place,” said Elaba, a seasoned seafarer.
Elaba made the statement after chief engineer Laurencio Tiro of Super Shuttle RoRo 9, a cargo vessel operating in Mindanao and Visayas, was snatched last March 23 by alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits together with ship captain Aurelio Agac-ac.
Agac-ac escaped from his abductors, while Tiro was rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines last March 27.
“Imagine being snatched inside a vessel while performing their jobs? This might have been avoided if a maritime security plan is intact on that ship. These incidents might have been avoided.” said Elaba.
He reiterated that the mere adoption of the International Maritime Organization-International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, SOLAS XI-2 as amended by IMO and the ISO 28000 standards, in which the country is a contracting party, are solutions to these problems of piracy, terror attack, accidents, among others.
“Ships will not sink, no lives will be taken, and drugs will not proliferate if ports and ships are well guarded and checked,” Elaba added.
“In fact, in 2013, I even asked the government of then President Benigno Aquino III to come up with the ‘International Summit for Anti-Piracy’ but we were turned down for unknown reasons. That summit is a perfect venue to address the maritime security concerns, but we don’t know what happened,” he said.
He revealed that in a news report in 2015, then-Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya admitted the government sees several loopholes in maritime laws, and the implementation of maritime safety and security programs in the country “is not enough,” given the unstable situation of the Philippine seas.
“The Philippines is committed to pursuing innovations and initiatives to promote the safety and security of its ships. Being an archipelagic nation, our people are dependent on ships for the carriage of passengers, cargoes and services between our islands. Ships and shipping services are important to our economic survival as a people and as a nation,” Abaya said in a statement during a press conference arranged by the Maritime Industry Authority.
“Naturally, it is our duty to ensure that we have a strong maritime-safety and security program that promotes the safety and security of life and property at sea, as well as the protection and preservation of the marine environment,” he added.
“See, even the former secretary of the DOTC confessed that there are hitches to secure the safety of the ship and the implementation of a maritime plan, so what is happening now? Does the government have any preventive measure on these mishaps?” Elaba Jr. said.