The Duterte administration is dead serious in its campaign against graft and corruption in the government aside from eradicating the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.

This after President Rodrigo Duterte sacked Marcial Amaro III as administrator of Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) over excessive foreign trips.

Amaro’s removal from post was announced by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. in a press briefing in Davao City on 4 Jan.

However, a check with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) showed Amaro made 24 foreign trips, Roque said.

“It turns out that the complaint of the employees is wrong,” Roque said. “Because while the employees said that Mr. Amaro made 11 trips in 2017 alone, the DOTr reported that Mr. Amaro in fact made 18 official travels in 2017. In 2016, he had six, or a total 24 travels.”

“The President has decided therefore to terminate his services,” Roque said.

Roque said based on the documents provided by the Presidential Management Staff, all of Amaro’s trips were official except for one. He added that only three of the trips were sponsored, while all the others were paid for by the Philippine government.

He added that Amaro received an honorarium and other sums for almost all of his trips abroad.

Before Amaro, Duterte also dismissed former Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chair Terry Ridon over “unnecessary trips.” He traveled seven times before he was sacked.

“If seven foreign travel is deemed excessive by the President, 24 travels is definitely excessive by the President’s standards,” he said.

“The point of the President is, we have to be selective [on] the trips that we will undertake and definitely 24 travels is excessive,” Roque added.

Foreign trips beneficial to Filipino seafarers

The embattled MARINA chief had earlier defended his trips, saying these would benefit Filipino seafarers.

“That would be a productive trip in a sense na kung hindi tayo nakikipag-discuss, nakikipag-argue sa mga organizations who create international regulations, ang magsa-suffer ho ay ang bansa natin,” Amaro told ABS-CBN News.

(That would be a productive trip in the sense that if we don’t discuss and argue with organizations that create international regulations, our country will suffer.)

The employees’ group also claimed that Amaro had bragged about his supposed ties with Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, one of the biggest donors to Duterte’s presidential campaign.

The complaint came as the President told government officials to limit their trips abroad.

Aside from Ridon and Amaro, the President had also sacked Dangerous Drugs Board chief Dionisio Santiago over allegations that he made unnecessary foreign trips.

Malacañang also released a memorandum outlining rules for foreign travels of officials and personnel under the executive branch.

The memorandum, dated January 3 and signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said no official foreign travel shall be allowed unless the purpose of the trip is strictly within the mandate of the official or personnel, the projected expenses for the trip are “not excessive,” and the trip is expected to bring “substantial benefit to the country.”

Amaro defends foreign trips

Meanwhile, Amaro defended his controversial trips abroad, saying these were part of his job.

“MARINA is an international organization. We are a specialized organization of the government that deals with international organizations,” he told ANC’s Headstart, a day after he was fired.

He however, admitted he traveled a total of 21 times in his year and a half as chair of the agency, but maintained all the trips were approved by the DOTr.

Amaro said while maritime tackles international trade as it stays on top of logistics, cruises, and tourism, domestic trade is also affected since all international practices are used locally.

“All the policies and programs emanate from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and we need to discuss it quite toughly with them otherwise it’s going to affect our domestic trade,” he said.

In the interview, Amaro said he attended 6 meetings of the IMO in the United Kingdom during his term - twice in 2016 and 4 times in 2017 - as part of the executive council. He said the Philippines had to attend 16 meetings annually.

He however emphasized that these meetings were necessary and beneficial for the country.

“We are providing security for our seafarers because we should understand that there are a lot of countries who would want to get our position as the major providers of seafarers,” he said of the IMO meetings he attended.

He added, he closed 2 bilateral agreements outside the country and came up with about 15 other deals.

Amaro said he had to attend all these official functions abroad himself since he was not appointed any deputy administrator.

Amaro added he believes “the Palace would realize that whoever would occupy my previous position would have to travel the same way.”

Who sought his ouster?

Malacañang supposedly received a letter from Alliance of Marina Employees (AME) earlier, saying Amaro was an “absentee administrator” and his trips have affected his work and demoralized employees.

The Office of the President received the complaint on December 22, 2017.

But Amaro claimed MARINA employees confirmed to him that they never sent a complaint.

“It was received by the Palace at face value...The first day of 2018, I met with the directors of the Alliance of Marina Employees and they straightforwardly said it is not coming from their ranks. They issued a resolution (denying) sending out any complaint letter to the Palace,” he said.

Amaro, who claimed getting information that 5 Jan. (Friday) could be his last day in office, said his modernization program for the domestic fleet may have irked some shipping companies and this could “probably” be one of the reasons for his dismissal.

He added, he also closed down about 22 maritime schools and they could have also lobbied for his removal from office.

Amaro, though disappointed that he would not be able to implement the programs he lined up for 2018, said he had accepted Duterte’s decision.

Buhay Marino Dyaryo is published monthly by SEAFARERS MARITIME MEDIA, INC.

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