LUSWELF operators, DOLE should talk to iron out kinks — Maritime expert

August 29, 2010 1:47 pm 

MANILA, Aug. 29 – Maritime expert and former Professional Regulation Commission examiner Capt. Constantino Arcellana said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the manning agencies conducting business at the Luneta Seafarers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (LUSWELF) should conduct more talks to patch up their differences.

Arcellana made this statement as he believes that LUSWELF is doing much good to the country's seafaring industry by providing seamen with a center or place to scout for good jobs overseas.

He also said that his opinion is reflected by the fact that delegates of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), during the recently-concluded June Diplomatic Conference, have nothing but praises when they visited LUSWELF for being a one-stop shop for seafarers.

But Arcellana said that manning organizations doing business in the area must police their ranks and weed out practices like the public announcement of salaries of prospective hirees, which DOLE and other manning organizations strongly contest and abhorred.

He also stressed that both the DOLE and the management of the LUSWELF should talk together so any kinks hampering the development of the center should be ironed out once and for all.

LUSWELF's existence earlier was questioned after the DOLE and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued out a closure order directing the 100-plus booths of manning agencies to close shop two months ago.

The DOLE and POEA directive ordering the closure of the booth manning system in Kalaw stemmed from the observation of some sectors claiming that the preponderance of manning booths and employment signages’ have made the area into an eyesore, source of traffic in the area, and somewhat a source of illegal recruitment iaround the vicinity.

“If they will close LUSWELF, our seafaring countrymen will have no place to stay while looking for new work. At the least, our sailors will have to go to cities of Makati and Quezon to rent a small apartment to stay-in while looking for work, not like in the center where they have the luxury to search for berths near the vicinity of their dormitories,” LUSWELF president Don Bagatsing added.

The LUSWELF chief also expressed confidence that the government will not put the center out of business as the satellite offices of the Maritime Industry Authority, Professional Regulation Commission, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the National Bureau of Investigation are still doing business with the center’s seamen clientele, alongside with social service units and dormitories designed to help distressed seafarers.

“If they are interested in putting us out of business, then those satellite offices should have been the first to go,” Bagatsing pointed out.

He also added that rumors spreading reports of LUSWELF’s impending closure come not from the office of DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz but from sources hostile to the center.

“In fairness to Secretary Baldoz, these reports did not originate from her office. What came out from the DOLE is the directive ordering booth manning to stop immediately in the adjacent Kalaw area,” Bagatsing pointed out.

But he also said that if the DOLE and POEA decided that the services of LUSWELF are redundant or superfluous, then they have no recourse but to comply with the proposed order.

“We at LUSWELF will be greatly saddened by such an event but if it is the decision of the authorities (to shut us down) then we have no recourse but to comply with it as law abiding citizens,” Bagatsing pointed out.

LUSWELF, in defending the existence of the “booth manning system” in Kalaw, said that it is merely providing shelter, one-stop-shop facilities, dormitories, other related services for the seafarers’ need and commitment to uplift the dignity of every mariner.

“Filipino seafarers are contractual employees, they can choose upon their discretion companies that will be beneficial to them and can help elevate and boost the standards of their lives. After finishing their commitment or contracts, they are free (to choose their next employers depending on the amount of remuneration offered). Poaching, much to our regret already exists before the LUSWELF Center was established (in 2007). Like any other profession, let us give proper dues and commendation to all hardship and sacrifices of our seafarers. Our seafarers are being employed by foreign principals even at high stakes because of their competencies compared to other nationalities,” it further stated.

It also stated that it is not in its jurisdiction to stop a particular manning agency from posting its salary rates on its respective booths. It added that it is the right of every manning agency or business entity on how to promote their services.

LUSWELF also added that no one can dictate that there should be no sea-based manning agency recruiting where seamen are congregating.

The center further said that denied claims made by some quarters that the “booth manning system” is being used by unscrupulous organizations in the illegal recruitment of seafarers as all manning agencies congregating in the Kalaw area were vetted by the POEA.

“POEA’s presence (at Kalaw) is to make sure that all unscrupulous fly-by-night illegal recruiters will be dealt with accordingly under the existing laws of the Philippine labor code. POEA is protecting our seafarers by ensuring that they are applying on legitimate manning agency,” it further stated. (PNA)

DCT/PFN

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