PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has ordered the Department of Transportation (DoTR) to draft a maritime industry development plan, focused on the training of seamen and the promotion of cruise ship tourism.

In news briefing, acting Press Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said Mr. Marcos issued the order during a Cabinet session in which the DoTR presented its plans for the maritime and aviation industries.

The President ordered the DoTr to focus on port upgrades to attract cruise ship visits, and to upgrade the maritime education and training system, she said.

The European Commission in December cited deficiencies in the Philippines’ seafarer education, training and certification system, flagging poor compliance with a 1970s convention.

How the workforce will weather automation and tougher environmental rules are major concerns for the maritime industry worldwide, Global Maritime Issues Monitor reported last month. 

“The industry feels least prepared for autonomy technology and failure or shortfall in infrastructure,” according to the report, which noted that reducing carbon emissions amid stricter environmental regulations are a top concern for the industry worldwide.

The increasing automation of shipping is also expected to expose shortages of key skills in the main seafarer supplying nations, it said.

“The President said that there is a need to upgrade the competencies of (maritime) schools and improve training programs to give students an advantage and (allow them to meet) international standards so that the country will remain the number one supplier of seafarers worldwide,” Ms. Garafil said.

George N. Manzano, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, told BusinessWorld last month that the maritime sector should be a key component of the Marcos government’s food security push. Efficient shipping will reduce the cost of produce and stabilize prices of basic goods, he said.

Mr. Marcos also ordered the DoTR to upgrade Metro Manila’s gateway airport and consider unsolicited proposals to modernize other airports in a manner that will “respond to increasing demand,” Ms. Garafil said.

On Monday, Transport Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said the government aims to complete regional airport projects worth P1 trillion by next year. He said public-private partnerships will play a key role in the Marcos administration’s infrastructure program. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza