PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo on Monday said she wants the Philippines to become a maritime hub, with shipbuilding as a core industry for the country’s economy. 

In a virtual forum with the Filipino Shipowners’ Association (FSA), Ms. Robredo pledged to double the maritime sector’s size to 12% from 6% of the economy, saying it is “really” key to the country’s overall economic resilience. 

“Empowering and strengthening should be a national imperative. I have been very public about my desire to really focus on the maritime industry as the core industry,” she said. 

She said modernizing and integrating Philippine ports and harbors will boost both local and international trade. 

“This serves a purpose that permeates beyond the maritime sector — a stronger national link through an integrated intermodal national logistics system allows trade to grow at the community level, which feeds into our strategy of looping the grassroots into the economic ecosystem,” she said.

The vice president also acknowledged the inefficiencies in the existing regulatory framework for the maritime industry, particularly on the matter of ship registration.

She said the regulatory stumbling blocks could be fixed through genuine stakeholder engagement, stocktaking process, and a proper road map to introduce new policies.

“With such a Philippine-flagged fleet, we can maximize our waters: creating employment, lowering the cost of logistics, bringing goods and services faster and farther into our islands. We will become the maritime power we should be,” she said. 

The presidential hopeful also bared other aspects of her maritime industry plan, such as adding a course on maritime industry to the senior high school curriculum, increasing the ratio of officers to ratings among Filipino seafarers, encouraging ships to register as Philippine-flagged vessels, and making the country a logistics hub. 

Also on Monday, Ms. Robredo’s supporters in Cavite slammed a member of a local dynasty for claiming that those who attended a grand rally in the vote-rich province on Friday were either paid to join or were trained by communists. 

In a statement, Ms. Robredo’s support group in Cavite said the estimated 47,000 people who joined the campaign rally were prompted by volunteerism and clamor for change. 

“This is ‘volunteerism’ — without asking for any payment and favor except for pushing for an upright, excellent, and achievement-based governance,” the group said in Filipino.

They said such claims are an insult to the dignity of Caviteños and downplays the right of individuals to make their own choices for elective government officials. 

The Cavite-based support group issued the statement after Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin “Boying” C. Remulla said there were politicians who gave P500 to participants of a rally in the province.

Mr. Remulla’s brother, incumbent Cavite Governor Juanito Victor “Jonvic” C. Remulla, Jr., has backed the presidential bid of the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza