I refer to the news item on the resumption of the cargo shipping operation of Sulpicio Lines. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/2/08)
It is being insensitive, unchristian and irresponsible that even before most of the passengers of the MV Princess of the Stars could be found and the Board of Marine Inquiry could complete its investigation, the government will allow Sulpicio Lines to go back to sea. It is not unlike allowing a murder suspect to strut around the wake of his victim?within sight of grieving relatives.
The government?s view that inter-island trade will be affected by the continued suspension of Sulpicio?s operation is based on the questionable claim that Sulpicio?s vessels carry 40 percent of our inter-island cargo traffic. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had better ask the Philippine Liner Shipping Association, of which Sulpicio Lines is a member, what the market share of Sulpicio is on each route it was serving before the suspension. He should also ask the other member-container lines of the association?Solid Shipping, Lorenzo Shipping, NMC Container Lines, Negros Navigation and Oceanic Shipping, as well as Aboitiz Transport?whether those companies can carry the containerized cargo volume that Sulpicio would be giving up while its shipping operation remains suspended. The answers might embarrass him.
Granting, for the sake of argument, that Ermita is right, I say that the temporary disruption of containerized cargo traffic is not a compelling justification to let Sulpicio resume its cargo shipping operation now. The government must wait for the Board of Marine Inquiry process to be concluded and must undertake an independent management and operations audit of the company to assure itself that Sulpicio as a shipping enterprise can be entrusted yet again with the lives of passengers and its crew, and the cargo of the shipping public.
If the findings are not favorable to Sulpicio, that company?s certificate of public convenience must be cancelled forthright. The cancellation is allowed under the Domestic Shipping Development Act (Republic Act 9295).
COL. LEONARDO O. ODOÑO (Ret.), former executive director, Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association