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BARMM ministry resolves Tawi-Tawi’s maritime row

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By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Using mixed military-diplomatic stance, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) were able to resolve a long-drawn management confusion in the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) office in Tawi-Tawi, according to concerned officials.

BARMM-MOTC Minister Dickson Hermoso (in dark barong) and his field officials touring the seaport in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi recently to resolve management confusion that gripped MARINA personnel and their clientele for over three years (Handout photo / via Ali Macabalang / MANILA BULLETIN)

BARMM-MOTC Minister Dickson Hermoso (in dark barong) and his field officials touring the seaport in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi recently to resolve management confusion that gripped MARINA personnel and their clientele for over three years (Handout photo / via Ali Macabalang / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The confusion in this office must stop,” MOTC Minister Dickson Hermoso was quoted as telling rank and file workers of Marina in Tawi-Tawi in a surprise visit in the island province last week.

Hermoso, a retired Army colonel and former deputy Presidential peace adviser, first conducted an ocular inspection and stepped into the Marine office in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, said Alonto Sahiron, Marina-BARMM officer-in-charge.

“No one assumes office without proper legal authority from the BARMM interim chief minister, himself, and without my concurrence as the minister of transportation and communications,” Sahiron quoted Hermoso as adding.

Hermoso was able to resolve what previous regional officials failed to address in the last three years, Sahiron said.

“Boat owners (had been) confused on whom to get the real permit to operate from,” Sahiron said of the situation prior to the visit of Hermoso.

He said the confusion stemmed from issues about bogus personnel pretending to be Marina employees and persons posing to be workers of allied agencies.

Starting from Hermoso’s visit, all types of sea vessels regardless of tonnage would be obliged to register and be recognized by Marina-BARMM.

Hermoso also ordered Marina and Regional Ports Management Authority (RPMA-BARMM) workforces to “work hand in hand as brothers” to monitor every sea vessel plying and docking along the seas and rivers within the BARMM area of responsibility.

Gary Abbas, RPMA OIC-head, said his office had no major problem other than congestion in seaports.

Due to improved economic activities in the BARMM, the number of sea vessels plying regional, provincial and local seaports continued to increase and the RPMA faces accommodation capacity.

Abbas informed Hermoso that the Bongao (Tawi-Tawi) and Jolo ports were undergoing renovation to be able to handle bigger ships to make it as an international hub.

“Soon these ports will be able to accommodate international cargos and passenger ships from neighboring Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Sabah, and Brunei,” he said.

Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have, for centuries, served as direct conduits of commercial vessels from the three Asian Muslim countries. Residents in Tawi-Tawi use the three countries’ currencies more often than Philippine peso, it was learned.

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