Amidst the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still business as usual for the members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS) Council as the latter approved the country’s Cross Table of Responsibilities and the draft Philippine Strategy on the Implementation and Enforcement of Relevant IMO Instruments during the 2nd Inter-agency Council Meeting on the IMSAS held via videoconferencing on 10 June 2020.

The Cross Table of Responsibilities and Philippine Strategy are two vital documents for the mandatory audit in October 2022. The Cross Table is a prerequisite to the drafting of the IMO Strategy, as it clearly delineates the obligations and interrelationship among maritime entities performing flag State, port State and coastal State functions as prescribed by the relevant IMO Instruments. The Philippine Strategy, on the other hand, aims to enhance maritime safety and protection of the environment and to meet international obligations and responsibilities as a member of the IMO.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary for Maritime VAdm Narciso A Vingson Jr spearheaded the said Meeting wherein he further elaborated the importance of having a Philippine Strategy.

“While this Strategy prepares us to the upcoming 2022 audit, this document serves as a sustainable solution in ensuring that despite frequent changes in leadership or shifting of priorities, our fulfillment in full and effective implementation of the IMO Conventions remains on top of our efforts,“ ASec. Vingson said.

ASec. Vingson likewise added that with the Philippine Strategy in place, the national government, along with the international community can remain confident that the Philippines remains focused in promoting a safe, secure and efficient sustainable maritime transport system that minimizes pollution while conserving energy and available resources.

To add to these milestones, Atty. Jean Ver P. Pia, PhD, the country’s single point of contact for IMSAS and Director of the MARINA – Overseas Shipping Service reported the preparatory activities undertaken by the Philippine maritime administration since the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS) in 2009 until 2019 as well as the updates on the Inter-Agency Verification Audit held last 20 to 24 January 2020 and on the drafting of national legislation for the International Maritime Instruments.

Moreover, due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the IMO has decided that the IMSAS audits scheduled for 2020 to 2021 have been pushed back a year and are now to be conducted in 2022 and 2023, respectively. In view thereof, Atty. Pia presented the revised overall schedule for IMSAS activities of the Philippines in view of the postponement of the Philippines’ audit from October 2021 to October 2022. The revised schedule of activities for IMSAS which was likewise approved by the Philippine IMSAS Inter-agency Council.

The 2nd Inter-agency Council Meeting on the IMSAS was attended by high officials and representatives from the DOTr, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), MARINA, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and Cebu Port Authority (CPA).

Meanwhile, as a follow through action, an Inter-agency IMSAS Webinar (IMSAS Reorientation) will be conducted on 26 June 2020 to address the difficulties encountered during the Verification Audit. The said activity likewise aims to brief the participants on the Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) Code and its Framework and Procedures.