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The Philippine government operates a number of research vessels designed not only to pursue basic and applied marine science research but also to provide technical information relevant to protecting national sovereignty and defining foreign policy. But the operation of these vessels are plagued with problems and issues ranging from budgetary constraints, lack of manpower, ship time utilization, data management, and many more.

The National Committee on Marine Sciences commissioned a study in 1996 to assess the status and utilization of research vessels in the country. The study indicated that vessel management appears to be trapped in a vicious cycle of budget constraints for maintenance/operation resulting in reduced outputs which cannot justify requests for more realistic budget levels. Since this study, three new vessels have been added to the Philippine research vessel fleet.

Research vessels are capital intensive because it is expensive to acquire and maintain them properly. In this regard, the 1996 study needs to be updated with a view to maximizing benefits from such considerable government investment.

In response to this need, the University of the Philippines’ Network on Archipelagic and Ocean Studies (ARCOAST) is implementing a project entitled “Mechanisms to efficiently run and maintain research vessels in the Philippines”. The project is being undertaken by Dr. Cesar L. Villanoy and Dr. Ma. Jayvee B. Udarbe of the UP Marine Science Institute and Marites M. Magno. They will identify strategies and mechanisms that could be adopted to ensure a more efficient utilization and upkeep of the ships.

The specific project objectives are as follows: (1) to assess the present status of research vessel use and maintenance in the country; (2) to compile published research outputs emanating from the use of these vessels; (3) to consider various models in the operation of research vessels; and (4) to propose mechanisms for maintaining and making available research vessels and identify the needs in order to implement such mechanisms, including legislative requirements.