House backs move to make PH top maritime nation

The House of Representatives has approved a bill establishing the Philippines as a leading maritime nation and respected flag State.

House Bill 9042, also known as the “Philippine Ship Registry System Act” aims to establish the scope and procedure for Philippine Ship Registry, recognition and enforcement of maritime claims, and limitation of liability.    

The bill was approved on second reading before Congress adjourned session last Feb. 9.

The bill also provides for essential incentives to promote a comprehensive and orderly Philippine Ship Registry System for the regulation of vessels carrying the flag State.

Rep. Jesulito Manalo of ANGKLA party-list, principal author of the bill, said the bill aimed to help the country become more competitive and encourage more ship owners in other parts of the world to register their vessels under the Philippine flag.

“To achieve this, we first must recognize that presently, there is a lack of a particular law completely addressing the registry system in the Philippines, which has been a perennial source of confusion and disorder,” he said.

In a related development:

• House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday expressed confidence President Rodrigo Duterte would soon sign the bill providing more benefits to senior citizens.

At a congressional hearing Thursday, Arroyo met with representatives of the country’s over 8 million seniors to assure them of House Bill 8837’s enactment at the soonest possible time as the Senate, through Senate President Vicente Sotto III, had adopted the version of the Lower House, known as the National Commission of Senior Citizens Act.

While the enrolled bill awaits the signature of the President, Arroyo said discussions on the bill ’s implementing rules would immediately begin.

“With this bill, there will be one agency, the NCSC, which will be responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs for our senior citizens,” Arroyo, one of the principal authors of the bill, earlier said.

Former First Lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos presided over the public hearing as chairperson of the House Committee on Senior Citizens. 

Manalo stressed it was necessary to formulate policies and rules that adhere to the global standards and maritime conventions, particularly on ship registry.

He said there were only about 200 vessels registered under the Philippine flag despite the country’s being widely known to be a major supplier of global maritime professionals on board vessels in many parts of the world.

“Other countries have attracted many foreign-owned vessels to register under their flag states by reason of their simplified system of registration and the appealing incentives they offer,” Manalo said.

One of the objectives of the bill is to establish the Philippines as a leading maritime nation and respected flag State.

It also seeks to ensure that Filipino-owned-and-manned maritime fleets or vessels are strengthened and assisted to meet the minimum global standards for reliability, safety, competitiveness, and effectiveness.

The bill likewise intends to encourage Philippine vessel acquisition, development, modernization and expansion through systemized and sustainable programs.

It also plans to align the tax structure for its domestic and overseas shipping fleet to make it competitive.

It also seeks to provide a mechanism for the early adoption and implementation of international maritime regulations and conventions.

In addition, the measure aims to provide protection to the country’s merchant marine fleets and help expand Philippine international trade.

The bill provides for the establishment of the Philippine Ship Registry (Registry) through which the State confers nationality, exercises its jurisdiction, protects and enforces private rights, and undertakes the national and international responsibilities of a flag State, over all ships flying the Philippine flag.

The Registry comprises the Register of Ships and the Record of Ship Mortgages and Encumbrances.

It shall be maintained by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the rules and regulations that may be issued pursuant to it.

The proposal states that there shall be one Registry for all domestic and international flag vessels.

Any ship registered under the Philippine registry shall be entitled to the following: a) conferment of the nationality and status of a Philippine flag; b) entitlement to the protection of the Philippine flag; c) entitlement to the right to invoke the diplomatic, consular and naval protection of Philippine authorities; 

d) imposition of the duty to fly the Philippine flag; e) obligation to abide by all the applicable laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations of the Philippines; f) entitlement to the privilege to engage, consistently with the limitations provided by law, in Philippine coastwise trade in accordance with corollary permits, certificates and franchises that may be issued to the vessel; and

g) entitlement to the right to invoke the exercise of jurisdiction and control by Philippine government authorities over all persons found on board the vessel, or over any incident involving the penal or disciplinary responsibility of the master or any member of the crew whether the same arises from a crime or quasi delict committed on board the vessel or from any collision or other incident of navigation concerning the ship.

As provided in the bill, a ship may be registered with only one ship register at any one time.

All ships operating within the maritime territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines, except transient foreign flag ships subject to such regulations as the MARINA may prescribe, are mandated to be registered with the Philippine Registry.    

The bill includes provisions on licensure; conditions for registration; issuance of Certificate of Philippine Registration; types of registration; taxes and fees; record of ship mortgages and encumbrances; maritime liens and encumbrances; ship mortgages; enforcement of mortgage; foreign lines and mortgages; right to limit liability; limits of liability; limitation fund; enforcement/investigation; and casualty investigation, among others.

Reps. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay and Francisco Datol Jr. of Senior Citizens party-list also attended the hearing as co-authors to the bill.

Hundreds of senior citizens who attended the hearing lauded the House for its swift action on the measure. 

Benjamin Medina Sr., national president of the League of OSCA head of the Philippines, said the creation of the NCSC “will guarantee the protection of the rights of senior citizens, which include the strict implementation of laws providing for economic benefits for them.”

HB 8837 proposes to create a cohesive government agency that will implement and enforce the laws and monitor compliance to said laws that are significant to senior citizens welfare.

The bill abolishes the National Coordinating and Monitoring Board a senior citizens agency attached to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The proposed NCSC is a collegial body whose members will be appointed by the President.  The agency will be headed by a chariperson who will be assisted by six commissioners who will represent different regions.

Topics: House of Representatives , National Coordinating and Monitoring Board , Department of Social Welfare and Development , Jesulito Manalo , Rodrigo Duterte
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