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Bill filed to open PHL waters to foreign vessels

Veterinarians from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources measure the carcass of a juvenile whale shark, known locally as a "butanding", at the coastline of Tanza, Cavite, southwest of Manila, September 5, 2013. The whale shark weighing approximately 300kg (661 pounds), and with a length of 6.72 metres (22 feet), was found by fishermen floating in the sea off Manila Bay on Wednesday, an official from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said. (MNS photo)

Veterinarians from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources measure the carcass of a juvenile whale shark, known locally as a “butanding”, at the coastline of Tanza, Cavite, southwest of Manila, September 5, 2013. The whale shark weighing approximately 300kg (661 pounds), and with a length of 6.72 metres (22 feet), was found by fishermen floating in the sea off Manila Bay on Wednesday, an official from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – COOP-NATCCO party list lawmakers filed a bill that seek to amend the cabotage provisions of the Customs and Tariff Code of 1978 or RA 1937 to open the Philippine waters to foreign vessels engaged in coastwise trade or cabotage.

Representatives Cresente Paez and Anthony Bravo filed House Bill 2623 to amend Sections 902 and 905 of RA 1937 which limit the rights to engage in Philippine coastwise trade to “vessels carrying a certificate of Philippine registry”.

The bill allows foreign vessels to engage in domestic coastal carriage of cargo and passengers within Philippine waters, or at any point within the waters of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

Paez contends that the cabotage provisions limit the maritime transfer of goods and passengers resulting to the deterioration of the maritime sector as the players become complacent because of the protection they expect from the government during challenging times.

The Philippines has 235,937 square kilometers coastline length. Out of 76 provinces in the country, 55 are listed as coastal provinces. Industry data show that there are more than 4,000 ships in the domestic trade, most of which operate as passenger-cargo liners.

“We are introducing this amendment to enhance the maritime industry, increase port revenues and expand employment opportunities for Filipinos,” said Paez.

Bravo meanwhile emphasized that the measure will create a Foreign Vessel Financing Fund which will benefit Filipino citizens and shipping companies owned by Filipinos.

“This fund that shall be collected by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) will promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity by providing financial assistance to Philippine operators in the domestic coastal shipping industry,” he explained.

The foreign shipping companies that will engage in coastwise trading in the Philippines shall also employ local crew in their vessels, Bravo added. (MNS)

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