Image courtesy: Girlie Cervantes
Through the intervention of Congressman Ricky Sandoval, the head of MARINA this morning confirmed that the proposed Memorandum Circular (distributed on 10th May, 2016), that aimed to regulate private Yachts and Other Pleasure Craft, will not be pursued in its present form. However, in the interests of on-water safety and security, proposals will be accepted for consideration by MARINA under the new administration.
Before 30th June, there may be a new piece of legislation enacted by the Philippine government MARINA department that will effectively kill on-water sports and tourism in the Philippines for the foreseeable future.
MARINA has issued a draft Memorandum Circular that, because of its use of terms such as “Yachts and Other Pleasure Craft” without clarification or opportunity for exemption, means that even the owner of a one-person kayak (or sailing dinghy or jetski) will require a Boat Captain class 1 license before dipping her/his paddle in the water. Further, according to the wording of the draft Memorandum Circular, anyone considering to purchase a Yacht and Other Pleasure Craft will have to obtain “approval to purchase” in advance from MARINA and, only if approved, will the purchase be allowed to proceed. Virtually any powered craft (think jetski) will require specified fire-fighting gear, life-saving equipment, emergency signal flares (kept in a waterproof container) etc.
By the way, you can only keep your Yachts and Other Pleasure Craft in locations approved by MARINA, to avoid hefty fines (first offense Php10,000) . . . neither, a list of approved locations is currently available for review nor, any suggestion as to how one may apply to have an unlisted location approved by MARINA. One wonders how Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) feel about MARINA being the entity to dictate the recognition of port and mooring locations? The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) might find it interesting too, insomuch as it is DENR who currently has a significant say in where a mooring location can be established.
Currently, pleasure yachts visiting the Philippines have the opportunity to stay and spend their money around the country for a minimum of 365 days. Under the proposed rules, visitors will have only 60 days before they are required to obtain a License to sail in Philippines waters and then, only if the person in charge has a Boat Captain class 1 (or 2, depending on the tonnage of the yacht or personal water craft) License or equivalent from a reciprocal authorities overseas (as yet unnamed).
As one visiting yacht owner stated, “I have to pay US$300 to enter the Philippines and now [under these rules] I will have to pay probably another US$300 plus to get a license within 60 days . . . I would not come back to the Philippines again”
One school President attending the meeting, to find out what it may mean for her K-12 Senior High School program, was told that basically, every sailing dinghy or kayak she wants to use for education purposes will require a person holding Boat Captain class 1 License to be in charge – six dinghies or kayaks demands six qualified captains. Such Senior High School programs will sink under the burden of these extra costs.
MARINA did publish the draft Memorandum Circular for consultation but apparently failed to send it to the majority of stakeholders in the industry. In the consultation meeting, held at the Casino Espaniola, on Friday, 20th May, many Philippine yacht clubs and sailing clubs were represented but there were no representatives from the boat building, boat sales, resort owner and water craft operator groups. It was unclear whether these groups had even been invited to attend.
When pressed for an explanation for the lack of clarification of terms and exemptions, it was explained that the level of urgency for finalizing the Memorandum Circular before 30th June was to blame. Every Boat Captain knows full well that it is supremely reckless to do anything on the water to a time frame, unless you are intent on enticing the gods of the ocean to vent their wrath.
Of course, much of the above may be resolved in the implementing Guidelines, that will probably be issued sometime within the coming year or two. The question is: why is such a set of rules initially worded in such a way as to be completely damaging to the tourism industry that the same rules profess to enhance?
One journalist present, who has submitted “suggested rules” to MARINA on three separate occasions over the past twelve years – suggestions gleaned from other progressive countries focused on water sports for tourism – said the current Memorandum Circular clearly showed the nobody in MARINA had ever read a single word he had offered and or they had no real concept of either pleasure yachts, personal water craft or the people who buy them.
Perhaps someone should invite the appropriate MARINA staff to visit (say) Subic Bay on the occasion of the upcoming Independence Day Regatta (11-12 June, 2016), to see what actually happens with pleasure yachts on the water and, if the staff would like to take a short drive to (say) Laiya, Batangas, on any holiday weekend, they may obtain an appreciation for how personal water craft actually enhance tourism through the enjoyment of activities on the water.
Yachting and water craft tourism is a rapidly growing sector of Philippine tourism but if the Memorandum Circular becomes the law then the sector will be wrecked, quickly.
More on this as it becomes available . . .