The Philippines has committed to becoming a major international hub for crew changes and a key player in trade facilitation in Asean amid the new coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
The commitments were made at the 39th Meeting of the Maritime Transport Working Group (MTWG) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its Dialogue Partners such as China, Japan, Korea and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) held last August 27.
This is the first time that the meeting was held virtually amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robert Empedrad, head of the Philippine delegation and administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority, said the country as a responsible member of the international maritime community continues to cooperate with member-states for the facilitation and safe movement of the world’s seafarers noting their importance in the stability of the global seaborne trade.
As a major provider of seafarers to the global labor market, the Philippines has opened the Ports of Manila, Bataan and Subic for international crew change.
Empedrad said the country is looking forward to the opening of its other international ports for this purpose.
“Given that seafarers play a crucial role in local and global maritime community, the welfare of these key workers should be of prime importance. As such, our maritime sector is working diligently to activate crew change hubs in the country to give maritime vessels the avenue to refresh their manpower, and to provide relief to our hardworking seafarers,” Empedrad said.
“They are the lifeline of the world’s economy as such they are our essential workers. In the Philippines, our seafarers are our indispensable partners for our country’s economic development.”
At the meeting, Empedrad assured the Philippines continues to exert effort to keep the maritime industry afloat through a “whole-of-government approach” amid the pandemic.
He said the supply chains, including the maritime sector in the Philippines, remain operational with the implementation of several measures such as the: use of automated systems to lessen face-to-face transactions; creation of a Shipping Protection Office, which protects both domestic and international shippers against unreasonable fees and charges imposed by the shipping lines; decongestion of ports; issuance of directive for all domestic shipping lines to provide cargo space and allocation for agricultural and food products, and providing preferential cargo rates; and extension of STCW certificates for seafarers that are still on board ships.
Empedrad also provided updates on the progress of the pilot project on the operationalization of Asean Single Shipping Market (ASSM), one the initiatives of the Kuala Lumpur Transport Strategic Plan (KLTSP) 2016-2025, a 10-year masterplan for the Asean transport sector which aims to enhance regional economic integration.