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Loren: Revive maritime industry

December 30, 2009

SEN. LOREN LEGARDA SAID YESTERDAY THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION SHOULD ADOPT A “NO-NONSENSE PROGRAM” TO REVIVE THE PHILIPPINE MARITIME AND SHIPBUILDING INDUSTRY TO PREVENT FREQUENT SEA ACCIDENTS THAT ANNUALLY COST THE COUNTRY HEAVILY IN HUMAN CASUALTIES AND FINANCIAL LOSS.
“It is too late for the present administration, which has neglected maritime industry, to do this,” said Loren. “So it will be the job of the next administration after 2010 to revive the shipbuilding and maritime industry for which our country has been famous in ancient times and during the Spanish period.”
Loren issued the statement in the wake of the sinking of another ferry off Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental, last December 26, three days following a collision between a passenger vessel and a fishing boat off Cavite, resulting in several dead and many missing.
She pointed out that the Philippines is a natural sea-faring nation, an archipelago of around 7,107 islands, and with a coastline of 235,974 square kilometers, much longer than that of the United States. Ever since the Filipinos have been skilled seafarers, earning their living from the sea as fishermen, immigrants and traders.
“Because of a lack of a shipbuilding industry capable of constructing seaworthy vessels that could adequately serve our inter-island routes, we are forced to import foreign-built vessels that are costly and beyond our means if new, thus forcing us to import mostly second-hand vessels that are aged and outdated,” said Loren.
“It is time that as a maritime country we should develop our own shipbuilding industry, based on our present capacity, so that we could be less dependent on ship imports. We have a very competent maritime labor market and we can acquire the technology. We shall at the same time be providing employment to our workers, including the seafarers and ship officers that we have been training in our maritime schools,” declared Loren.
Loren cited Vietnam as an example of an Asian country that has started a shipbuilding industry, which is now among the major maritime industries in the world, next to South Korea and Japan. “If these countries with less natural and human resources can do this, why not the Philippines?” she said.
Loren declared that the Philippines can acquire modern shipbuilding technology through partnership with foreign companies, as China and Vietnam did, in developing a strong shipbuilding industry. She deplored that many enterprises that had started out as shipbuilders in the Philippines had gone down to become mere ship repairers because of lack of government support.
Loren said that the government should provide incentives to the local shipbuilding industry, particularly in constructing vessels especially designed to serve the inter-island trade in goods and passengers. It could also supply the Philippine navy initially with lower class vessels like patrol and rescue boats.
“Let us revive the natural Filipino aptitude for shipbuilding and seafaring, not just to provide employment for our people, but to contribute to national progress through cheaper and more efficient inter-island transport,” Loren declared.