Build, Build, Build at Sea

A highly publicized achievement of the previous administration is the Build, Build, Build program which built roads, highways, bridges, ports and airports. When erected, these concrete structures reduce the time spent traveling overland and provide convenience through well-paved thoroughfares and highways.

New ports have been built and existing ports have been repaired or renovated, and ports are at the end of the line in the land transportation system. Few would dispute that ports are the starting points of maritime transport. And in this archipelago, connecting the islands for the mobility of people, internal trade and rural development, is as important as land transport. In fact, the call for unity in this archipelago will be difficult to achieve without connecting the more than 7,000 islands.

For many, it is inconceivable to undertake a Build, Build, Build program at sea, unless bridges or underground links are erected under the sea, like the one that connects England and France in the Channel.

Philippine Nautical Highway

It is not necessary to build bridges or roads at sea as we did on land! The Philippines erected a Philippine Nautical Route (PNH) two decades ago. The Development Bank of the Philippines and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) have long since launched the Build, Build Build program at sea! Of course, there are no concrete roads erected on the vast waters of the archipelago; ships, ro-ro, fast craft, tankers, lighters, boats and all other floating assets engaged in the movement of people and goods have been built to complement the country’s nautical highway. The PNH is the transport infrastructure at sea mainly in the form of ships equivalent to those built in the land transport system. Nautical highways are only possible with ships, and ports are the starting and ending point of the nautical highway. The ship/port interface is a necessary component of the PNH.

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The PNH fulfills the purposes for which Presidential Decree (PD) 474 was issued and the granting of the mandate given to Marina under the said law. National shipowners have responded to the call to establish the nautical highway; ships were deployed to connect the islands, taking on the character of concrete roads and highways at sea. There was in fact an overwhelming response from the shipping industry to the launch of the PNH despite the challenges posed by restrictive government regulatory impositions and insufficient support to promote an enabling environment for the expansion of domestic investment in shipping businesses.

The quote from the PNH seems to be limited to rhetoric, when and where it sees fit, never going beyond the oratories of government officials. Understanding what the nautical highway is in achieving the objectives of the PD 474 is hardly manifested. Meanwhile, inland navigation continues to face the maze of bureaucracy, inconsistent and ambiguous regulations and inadequate support. The Build, Build, Build at sea should have focused on instituting reforms to address long-standing issues facing domestic shipping.

At the end of the previous administration, the Build, Build, Build program was highlighted, giving a tally of the accomplishments of agencies under the Department of Transportation, which clearly did not include Marina.

The Build, Build, Build at sea constituting the continuation of the expansion of the PNH was not mentioned. Why is that? The programs completed in the establishment of missionary routes and additional Ro-Ro routes should have been cited as part of the further development of the PNH! The deployment of new and modern vessels on inland routes is an achievement under Marina’s Build, Build, Build at sea program, but unfortunately overlooked in the Department of Transport’s report.

It was up to Marina to have highlighted the expansion achievements of the PNH which have made it possible to optimize the benefits and opportunities offered by the nautical highway, and beware, without a heavy capital charge on the part of the government! Sayang!

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