Amid pandemic, Tugade assures international shipping community of Ph commitment to sustain maritime activities

MANILA – Stressing the importance maritime trade and shipping activities play during crucial periods such as the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade assured the international shipping community of the country’s commitment as an effective partner in global maritime activities.

Tugade made the assurance when he spoke before a virtual gathering of global maritime leaders to mark the World Maritime Day 2020 on September 24, in line with the high-level opening week of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Our aspiration towards becoming a more developed maritime nation will grow with the years. We can assure you that. I am deeply grateful for your support and faith in us as we shape the Philippines into a maritime nation, ready to forge ahead with a remarkable and global impact,” Secretary Tugade said.

In his 4-minute speech, Secretary Tugade also highlighted the contributions Filipino seafarers have made in the global maritime arena, as well as the policies adopted by the Philippine government that paved the way to strengthen the country’s maritime industry and seafaring activities.

Joining Secretary Tugade in the high-level virtual meeting were United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo, Internationa Labour Organization (ILO) Director General Guy Ryder, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary General Kitack Lim, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General Guy Platten, and UNGC Special Advisor Sturla Henriksen who served as moderator.

Other transport ministers who attended the virtual meeting were H.E. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Government of Canada; H.E. Annick Girardin, Minister of Marine Affairs of the Republic of France; H.E. James Macharia, E.G.H, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Government of Kenya; and H.E. Noriel Araúz, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority.

Secretary Tugade said that as the Philippines has been providing international shipping with trained and qualified mariners for decades, of the estimated 1.5 million seafarers worldwide over 370,000 or about 25 percent are Filipinos.

In his speech, Secretary Tugade also bared the steps the Duterte Administration has taken so far to protect the health and safety of Filipino seafarers.

Among these measures, said Secretary Tugade, includes the establishment of the “Green Lane” for the safe and unimpeded movement of seafarers amid the pandemic, the identification of ports to serve as crew-change hubs and the establishment of one-stop-shops for the uniform processing of arriving seafarers in all gateways of the Philippines.

“I remember distinctly well when I had this conversation with (IMO) Secretary General Kitack Lim in July of this year, where he encouraged us, the Philippines to continue on our firm policy to support shipping and the Filipino seafarers.

Today, I am happy to declare and to report that as of August of this year, barely two months after that conversation with the Secretary General, the Philippines was able to activate three crew-change hubs in the country, and are fast-tracking immediate activation of three more in the next 30 days,” said Secretary Tugade in his speech.

In addition to the safe and efficient processing of seafarers in the identified crew change hubs, Secretary Tugade also bared in his speech that the Philippines also extended for one-year the validity of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention (STCW) certificates, record books, identification and record books of Filipino seafarers to ensure their unhampered deployment and crew changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary Tugade assured the other ranking global maritime officials who attended the virtual meeting that Filipino seafarers will continue to show professionalism and dedication despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic.

“Filipino seafarers carry with them the values of dedication, resiliency, discipline, and excellence, and that the country will continue to strengthen itself as a maritime nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary Tugade, in the same meeting, also took the opportunity to report on the strides the Philippines has made in the development of maritime-linked infrastructure amid the pandemic.

Secretary Tugade mentioned that under the Duterte Administration, no less than 369 port projects were completed since 2016. These include 14 port projects which were virtually inaugurated.

“Yes, we have inaugurated port projects notwithstanding this pandemic. I am deeply grateful for your support and faith in us as we shape the Philippines into a maritime nation, ready to forge ahead with a remarkable and global impact,” he said.

In his response, UNGC Special Advisor Sturla Henriksen acknowledged the dedication being shown by Filipino mariners.

“Having served many years with the shipping industry, I can confirm the commitment and the dedication of the Filipino seafarers is remarkable. So, thank you so much,” he said.