WMU in the Philippines
May 30, 2013 - 11:44am

With 128 graduates from the Philippines and alumni in top maritime roles, WMU has a significant presence and influence in the country that is the largest single supplier of the world’s maritime manpower. The most recent graduate to assume a top role is Maximo Q. Mejia, Jr. who took the oath of office on 27 May as Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in his native country. MARINA is an agency attached to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with the charge to integrate the development, promotion, and regulation of the maritime industry within the Philippines.

Dr. Mejia took his oath of office before DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya and is tasked with the modernization of the country’s merchant fleet and the regulation of its shipping industry. “I have tasked Professor Mejia to bring MARINA up to par with international standards in all aspects of the Philippine maritime sector,” Abaya remarked. “His credentials and mastery of the industry give me full faith in his ability to do just that.”

A graduate of WMU in 1994, Dr. Mejia became a WMU faculty member in 1998 eventually assuming the head of the Maritime Law and Policy specialization in 2011. Dr. Mejia is officially on approved leave with firms plans to return to WMU, but will be an integral part of the maritime authority in the Philippines before returning to Sweden at a future date. In reference to his new role, Dr. Mejia stated “I am grateful for the confidence bestowed upon me by President Aquino and Secretary Abaya. I wish to acknowledge the men and women of MARINA for their dedication in promoting the safety, security, productivity, and economic viability of shipping. I know of their tremendous efforts in preparing for the EMSA [European Maritime Safety Agency] audit on our country's STCW [Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping] compliance. I look forward to joining their ranks in providing the Filipino people with the service they truly deserve.”

With an archipelago of over 7,000 islands encompassing a coastline of around 18,000 miles, the Philippines is a nation with a long and distinguished maritime history. The maritime industry is the engine of the national economy, making possible the development of other sectors, from mining to agriculture, and is also a vector of cultural and national unity for a country that is spread over such a vast area. As the largest single supplier of the world’s maritime manpower, the Philippines has more maritime training institutions than any other country.

This past January, Dr. Mejia and WMU President Björn Kjerfve traveled to Manila where thanks to the efforts of HE Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, Secretary of Transportation & Communications, it was possible for President Kjerfve to meet with HE Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, on 30 January at the Malacanang Palace. Secretary Abaya and Attorney Nicasio A. Conti, then Officer in Charge of MARINA, joined the hour-long meeting where President Kjerfve informed President Aquino about the successes of WMU as the institution celebrates 30 years, highlighting the fact that the Philippines ranks third in the number of graduates out of 164 countries.

WMU has a particularly strong presence in the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) with WMU alumnus Rear Admiral Rodolfo D. Isorena (WMU MSEP 2002) serving as the current Commandant. The previous two PCG Commandants, Admiral Ramon C. Liwag (ret., WMU MSA 1996) and Admiral Edmund C. Tan (ret., WMU MA 2002), are also WMU alumni and both received Outstanding Alumnus Awards at the 2012 WMU graduation ceremony. Overall, the Philippines ranks third in the countries with the most WMU graduates with a total of 128 alumni. During the visit of President Kjerfve and Dr. Mejia to Manila, Admiral Isorena hosted a WMU Alumni Fellowship Dinner in the evening with song and dance, attended by some 100 Coast Guard officers, alumni, and their spouses. During the event, President Kjerfve was honored with the Coast Guard Legion of Honor (Degree of Maginoo).

While in Manila, Drs. Kjerfve and Mejia were welcomed by Vice Admiral Eduardo Ma R Santos (ret.), President of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP). A short helicopter flight over Manila Bay to Bataan, President Santos provided a tour of MAAP with an opportunity to meet the faculty and tour the facilities. Discussions are ongoing regarding opportunities for collaboration between MAAP and WMU.

Rounding out the visit to the Philippines, Dr. Gerardo A. Borromeo, Vice-Chairman/CEO, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc. (PTC) organized a lunch hosted by the Filipino Shipowners Association where President Kjerve made a presentation about WMU to the leaders of some 40 companies and organizations. It is noteworthy that Doris Magsaysay Ho, President and CEO of A. Magsasay, Inc., the largest seaferer manning company in the country, is a member of the WMU Executive Board. HE Carlos Salinas, Ambassador of the Philippines to Spain, the Chairman of Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc., and a WMU Governor, happened be in Manila during the visit of Drs. Kjerfve and Mejia and hosted a dinner attended by some dozen maritime leaders, including IMO Regional Co-ordinator Brenda V. Pimentel.

It is only natural that the ties between WMU and the seafaring nation of the Philippines will continue to grow as the numbers of Filipino graduates steadily increases. As WMU alumni assume prestigious maritime positions, they will exert significant influence in this archipelago nation that helps to shape global maritime activity through its sheer numbers of seafarers. WMU welcomes the opportunity for collaboration with these Filipino alumni and alumni worldwide as the institution moves forward in its 30th anniversary year continuing to serve the global maritime community through education, research and capacity building to ensure safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.

Click here to view a clip of President Kjerve meeting President Aquino.

Updates: Since the publishing of this news item, MoUs have been signed with the Philippine Ports Authority, MARINA, and the Philippine Coast Guard, and an alumni association has been established. Refer to the "Related Content" below for links to these news items.

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