Last month saw some 19 Filipino manning agents charged with "illegal recruitment activities" after the Philippine government sent undercover inspectors posing as job-hunters to Manila's well-known Luneta Seafarers' Centre.
However, it seems the companies have been left bewildered by the development, as they are not sure exactly what they are supposed to have done wrong. Anyone who has visited will be familiar with the fact that people who want to go to sea congregate in the area, and those looking to employ them do too so far, so market forces.
In the past the recruitment would have occurred there and then but changes introduced by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration suspended recruitment on the premises. So companies now bus their eager new recruits to their offices to complete the paperwork.
While the rules stated that manning agents are forbidden to post salary rates on the premises it remained legal for recruiters to disseminate information, and according to reports, many of the accused companies seem to have done no more than that.
But the POEA's detectives seem to think otherwise after setting up a "sting" at the centre, by sending personnel there who pretended to be jobseekers and who then allegedly were handed company brochures, calling cards and flyers listing their respective job openings which was deemed tantamount to recruitment.
While questions may well remain as to why they have done this, and of whether indeed anyone is guilty of anything perhaps the bigger issue is of why this is important. Indeed, why, when many Philippine training centres are threatened with having their EU plugs pulled are detectives sniffing around the one part of the local maritime scene which has actually worked and delivered.
Perhaps if anyone is going to send detectives it should be the police to clampdown on all the hooky training books, DVDs and CBT which are hawked in Luneta. Now that would be progress.
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