November 2nd, 2012

“Legal” recruiting practices confuses manning agencies in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines - The government’s strengthened Anti - Illegal Recruitment (AIR) drive receives support from one of the country’s biggest group of manning companies but two recruitment firms cry foul on how the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency’ s (POEA) handled the process.

The Joint Manning Group (JMG) of the Philippines recently vowed to support the POEA’s AIR campaign saying that they believe that the strengthened program can improve the country’s recruitment practices and also protects the Filipino seafarers.

However, the government’s revitalized program against illegal recruiters leads to a legal confusion for manning agencies. The confusion stems from the understanding among crewing agencies as well as applicants that it’s legal to distribute job-related information at Luneta Seafarers’ Centre (which serves as an unofficial labour exchange for seafarers in the Philippines) as long as the signing of contract takes place in official locations.

The POEA on the other hand argues that handing out company brochures and flyers is already considered “recruitment” which makes the process of handing out flyers and various form of information from recruitment agencies “illegal”. This legal debate has led to the confusion of numerous manning agencies about the legal and proper way of recruiting seafarers in the Philippines.

The Philippine affiliates of Univan and Wallem crewing agencies said they were frustrated how the POEA went with their drive against illegal recruiters after their affiliates were named in the government body’s website as companies who carried out illegal recruitment. Representatives for both companies say that the communication between POEA and manning agencies should be improved to avoid damaging incidents to both parties and avoid unnecessary embarrassment.

An official from Wallem’s Manila-based affiliate said that the company has yet to receive official notice from the POEA and only learned about the accusation from the government body’s website. Both recruitment companies said that being named on the website and making their accusations public have damaged their names and reputation as a manning agency even though the POEA have yet to prove their claims.

The Wallem official also added that such incidents jeopardize the livelihood of many Filipino seafarers and that the lack of communication from local authorities and manning agencies can be damaging to the reputation of the Philippines seafarer market.