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How can the Philippines tap the full potential of it's maritime resources?
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00:00.0
S M N I. Truth that matters.
00:06.0
Miss Pastrana, may I call you Marianne?
00:08.0
Yes.
00:09.0
It's nice to see you again.
00:10.0
And you know, you're the first person to be invited back on Business and Politics.
00:14.0
Really?
00:15.0
Because we had such an interesting discussion, but we were limited by time constraints.
00:20.0
But thank you for making time again.
00:23.0
Thank you for inviting me here. It's a pleasure and I am very grateful.
00:28.0
You know, one of the things that really intrigued me when we were talking is your background.
00:33.0
If I recall correctly, you studied nutrition in college.
00:38.0
Your husband is in agribusiness, right?
00:40.0
Yes.
00:41.0
How did you get into shipping and logistics?
00:45.0
You know, I always joke about it that my husband took agribusiness and he kept on agreeing and agreeing to all kinds of businesses.
00:53.0
But joking aside, you know, I have a story.
00:57.0
When my daughter was two years old, my father-in-law was living in Calbayong, Samar.
01:03.0
Samar.
01:04.0
And we drove all the way, took the nautical highway.
01:07.0
I see.
01:08.0
And then when we got there, oh my God, the lines were long, the toilets were so bad.
01:11.0
The ro-ro.
01:12.0
Yes, taking the ro-ro.
01:14.0
And then like, I actually got sick after that trip because I was holding my pee, not using the dirty toilets at the port.
01:22.0
Right after that trip, I went straight to Makati Med, got hospitalized.
01:26.0
But the story is when we saw the state of the ro-ro network in the Philippines,
01:33.0
somehow my husband uttered a prayer and said,
01:36.0
I hope someday I can help in this area and help our country.
01:42.0
And maybe God heard the prayer, the universe, and He manifested it.
01:47.0
And somehow we got into this business in 2000.
01:51.0
So we started owning tugs and barges.
01:54.0
I see.
01:55.0
To carry bagged fertilizer.
01:56.0
I see.
01:57.0
And then soon after, this ro-ro.
01:59.0
So we bought a company with five ro-ro vessels, but old ones, secondhand from Japan.
02:05.0
And then we ran it for a bit, and then we realized this is not the way to go.
02:09.0
It's not a good business model to operate old ships imported from abroad, not suited for Philippine waters.
02:18.0
So we embarked on a modernization plan.
02:21.0
Thank God we had investors who trusted us, who trusted the vision.
02:26.0
And in 2010, we got approval for the funding of modern ships.
02:32.0
And then the first fast cat arrived in 2013.
02:35.0
And then now we're on our 20th ship.
02:38.0
And as I mentioned to you, we have a big, hairy, audacious goal of 60 fast cats by 2030.
02:45.0
And why and why not?
02:47.0
Because we are an archipelagic nation.
02:50.0
We depend on these moving sea bridges to connect the Philippine islands.
02:56.0
And so we're dreaming this for our country.
02:58.0
People look at your success, and they may interpret that you had a very easy going with your business.
03:05.0
But we were talking earlier, there were a lot of challenges, even now,
03:10.0
but especially when you were starting your business to grow to this scale.
03:16.0
Yeah.
03:17.0
Do you regret any of that?
03:19.0
Do you wish you went back to nutrition?
03:23.0
Actually, yeah.
03:25.0
I was telling fellow entrepreneurs in the entrepreneurs' organization,
03:29.0
like how complex our business is and how hard it is.
03:32.0
And a friend of mine answered back, was a fellow entrepreneur, said,
03:35.0
Ann, come on, what business is not hard?
03:38.0
Right.
03:39.0
Everything is.
03:40.0
Yes, everything has its own hardships.
03:42.0
But I guess shipping is complex in itself.
03:46.0
It's an expertise.
03:47.0
It's technical.
03:49.0
So it needs some kind of expertise to be successful in this field.
03:54.0
Right.
03:55.0
So thank God that when you were here, even if I took up nutrition,
04:00.0
and managing the ships and talking to seafarers,
04:03.0
my thought bubble was saying that how could these people believe me
04:07.0
when I don't have the educational background.
04:10.0
So in 2015, I decided to enroll at the World Maritime University
04:16.0
and took up executive maritime management.
04:18.0
And then, as if that's not enough,
04:21.0
I took up maritime education and training at the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy.
04:27.0
So what am I saying?
04:29.0
So our company is really being experts in this field
04:33.0
and being very good in this field so that our country can depend on us
04:38.0
in delivering the kind of services that they expect,
04:41.0
being an archipelagic nation.
04:43.0
Right.
04:44.0
So it's complex, but with God's help, strong faith,
04:51.0
we believe that we must be this expert shipping company that our country needs
04:57.0
because what we're doing is connecting the Philippine islands.
05:00.0
Right.
05:01.0
And it is needed for nation building and for national unity.
05:05.0
I always tell our people, para sa bayan.
05:08.0
Right.
05:09.0
We're doing this para sa bayan.
05:10.0
Our people depend on us for this.
05:12.0
Right.
05:13.0
So, yeah, it's complex.
05:15.0
As you said, there's a great need.
05:18.0
And even with 60 ships, serving 110 million Filipinos,
05:24.0
that's really…
05:25.0
Still not enough.
05:26.0
Drop in the bucket.
05:27.0
Amen, yeah.
05:28.0
True, true.
05:29.0
Agree, yeah.
05:30.0
So what's needed?
05:31.0
I mean, if you were in position now and you were to look at people like yourself,
05:37.0
just, you know, many years ago starting out, what would have been easier?
05:43.0
If you had maybe a chance to recommend to policymakers, to the government,
05:48.0
hey, do this so that, you know, it would have been an easier process,
05:52.0
journey for people who want to invest their own money, right,
05:57.0
and serve an important need of the Filipinos.
06:00.0
Yeah.
06:01.0
So, as I mentioned to you, my husband and I are very much active in the ferry world, no?
06:06.0
Yes.
06:07.0
Because we feel that to be a good player in this industry,
06:11.0
that we must be experts and we must be learning continuously.
06:15.0
And one of the avenues where we get all these learnings
06:18.0
is from an organization of ferry owners called InterFerry.
06:22.0
And every time I'm there, I pick the brains of these ferry companies.
06:28.0
Some of them are like third generation, fourth generation.
06:31.0
I listen and I try to learn.
06:34.0
So, you know, in other countries, companies like ours are subsidized by the state.
06:39.0
Because the state would say…
06:40.0
Because you provide the public service.
06:42.0
Exactly.
06:43.0
The state would say if they know it's their responsibility to connect their country,
06:49.0
provide the road infrastructure.
06:51.0
So if it takes for them to connect via sea, then they have some form of subsidy.
06:58.0
So, like Norway, they provide fuel.
07:01.0
Some routes in Canada, they have a budget to support the players in the field.
07:07.0
So, for me, here in the Philippines, we don't have that structure yet.
07:11.0
Okay.
07:12.0
But there are incentives crafted such as tax-free importation
07:18.0
if you bring in brand new ships.
07:20.0
But you see, ships are expensive.
07:22.0
It's capital intensive.
07:24.0
Sure.
07:25.0
I think you were saying something like one brand new ship that you bought from Australia
07:28.0
is something around $10 million or something.
07:31.0
Yeah, yeah.
07:32.0
So it's a serious investment.
07:34.0
Yeah, serious investment.
07:36.0
And then you operate, you keep on moving.
07:38.0
There are a lot of moving parts.
07:40.0
And then we're subjected to weather, high tide, low tide, weather,
07:45.0
and then regulatory requirements, and we're scattered all over the Philippines.
07:49.0
So my wish is that people try to understand the business and support it in their own way.
07:58.0
Support would be, of course, using it, using the network,
08:01.0
like maybe traveling in the countryside, using the service instead of maybe going abroad.
08:07.0
That's one.
08:09.0
Two, supporting us by helping us maintain our operational expenses.
08:15.0
So maybe don't vandalize the ships or use the equipment properly.
08:21.0
Be responsible passengers.
08:22.0
Yes, be responsible passengers.
08:24.0
That's one.
08:25.0
Third, if I'm government, I will support it because it will bring to the local government unit
08:32.0
a lot of return when they have that connection.
08:37.0
I was mentioning to you that you would say that we have the bragging right,
08:42.0
that we were the first to connect Mindoro to Catitlan during the time of President GMA in 2004.
08:49.0
That was our ship that first connected those islands.
08:53.0
And there was no shopping centers like Mercury Drug.
08:58.0
Yeah, the Sari-Sari store, but not the commercial type.
09:01.0
Yeah, and no banks yet, no mga pera padala, ganyan.
09:06.0
Once you connected them.
09:07.0
Yes.
09:08.0
Then the ripple effect just really brought in business and people and traffic in the area.
09:15.0
So if I'm government, then I'll support that.
09:18.0
A lot of government people, governors, congressmen would come and call and say,
09:24.0
hey, can you connect our islands?
09:26.0
And I would always say, or like one Senator Legarda asked us to connect Antique.
09:32.0
And I would say, ma'am, you know, we would be happy to support and connect the islands,
09:36.0
but it doesn't stop there.
09:38.0
We would need people's support by using them or if I'm LGU, gathering all the cargo
09:44.0
and getting them organized so that they use the service.
09:48.0
Because once we connect, we burn fuel already.
09:51.0
Right.
09:52.0
And capital.
09:54.0
You can't go to one island and then not refuel.
09:57.0
Exactly, yeah.
09:59.0
Or pay people to run the ships, right?
10:01.0
Yeah.
10:03.0
There's a whole ecosystem that needs to be developed.
10:05.0
Exactly.
10:06.0
Where you land and where you take off.
10:08.0
So we have to have that systemic thinking where if you want us to connect you,
10:13.0
then you also help us make it easy for us to operate our ships and get the traffic,
10:18.0
get the people to take the ship.
10:21.0
Otherwise, it's going to die.
10:23.0
It's not going to be sustainable.
10:25.0
Because we've seen that happen during the time of President GMA
10:30.0
when they wanted us to connect Bataan.
10:33.0
Okay.
10:34.0
So we pulled out a ship.
10:35.0
Bataan and Manila.
10:36.0
Manila, Manila to Bataan.
10:38.0
And then we put our ship there.
10:40.0
But then there's still traffic.
10:42.0
I see.
10:43.0
After investigating why, why, why, why is it successful?
10:46.0
Like the road network is not enough.
10:48.0
I see.
10:49.0
It's dark.
10:50.0
People don't feel safe.
10:51.0
I see.
10:52.0
And you were asking me about Pasig River, like what can we do in Pasig River.
10:54.0
Right.
10:55.0
So it's, you know, to be able to be successful there, you have to have not just the ship itself.
11:00.0
Right.
11:01.0
You have to have the right.
11:02.0
You need to have the system, right?
11:03.0
Exactly.
11:04.0
So right design of a boat.
11:05.0
Yeah.
11:06.0
You need to have the landings.
11:07.0
It has to be lighted.
11:08.0
Road network.
11:09.0
The connection to other.
11:10.0
Connection to the main artery.
11:11.0
Other transport.
11:12.0
Yeah, yeah.
11:13.0
Yes.
11:14.0
Connection to the main artery.
11:15.0
Then maybe ticketing system.
11:16.0
Yeah.
11:17.0
Maybe making them, making it accessible in the phone, right?
11:21.0
An app so that people will start using it.
11:24.0
So, again, it's not just the company itself, but then the whole ecosystem and population
11:30.0
coming together to help and make this happen.
11:33.0
Has it become easier now?
11:35.0
Because there's also, you know, not just, you know, between departments, right?
11:39.0
But also between the national and local governments.
11:42.0
Sometimes it's a tricky thing to navigate, right?
11:46.0
Yeah.
11:47.0
Do you see that there's more coordination now?
11:50.0
And maybe what else should happen so that it's a more seamless experience, right, for
11:57.0
people taking the ferries?
11:59.0
Yeah.
12:00.0
You know, I think government on their parts doing something, you know, like Marina came
12:05.0
up with a road map, 10-year road map.
12:09.0
We hear government saying they're supporting our seafares and all.
12:15.0
But we need to, I think, move at a faster pace.
12:18.0
Okay.
12:19.0
Like have that really paradigm shift.
12:20.0
So all the ideas are there.
12:21.0
You need to implement it.
12:23.0
Yeah.
12:24.0
And implement it well.
12:25.0
Yeah.
12:26.0
Implementation and support of other agencies.
12:28.0
Example, ships by law should be dry docked every two years.
12:34.0
Okay.
12:35.0
We don't have a shipping industry, I mean, a shipping industry, sorry, steel industry.
12:39.0
Okay.
12:40.0
So all the steel plates that needs to be…
12:41.0
To import it.
12:42.0
Yes.
12:43.0
Has to be imported.
12:44.0
Okay.
12:45.0
So then we need the support of the Department of Finance and then customs to get these
12:49.0
materials done.
12:50.0
And one of the dream of Marina is to have like a center wherein we import tax-free.
12:58.0
I see.
13:00.0
And then get things faster than the usual route.
13:03.0
So it's, we've been talking about it, it's been in the air for quite some time, but
13:08.0
it hasn't happened, no?
13:10.0
So these things, no, that this has to happen, of course, encouraging industries like, yeah,
13:16.0
the steel industry.
13:17.0
To invest.
13:18.0
Yeah.
13:19.0
Yeah.
13:20.0
We hope to have that.
13:21.0
The parts.
13:22.0
Yeah.
13:23.0
To have that.
13:24.0
Education.
13:25.0
We have to upscale our people and maybe change our curriculum in maritime education.
13:34.0
Yeah.
13:35.0
And I guess also just creating awareness in anything maritime.
13:41.0
Wow.
13:42.0
Because if we do that, then the effect will be so much better.
13:45.0
Yeah.
13:46.0
There's a lot of opportunities and potential.
13:48.0
If we just really focus on it and use it to our advantage, then yeah, it will work well
13:55.0
for us.
13:56.0
Okay.
14:05.0
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