By Alexis Douglas Romero
OFW Journalism Consortium, Inc
Tuesday, 21 June, 2005
Around the Philippines, young people in white starched polo shirts and pants are enrolling in maritime schools this June at a time when rising unemployment among Filipino seafarers is sparking a debate over whether substandard schools or the sheer number of students is to blame for the problem.
To be sure, the number of seafarers being deployed is increasing. According to the deployment statistics of Overseas Filipino Workers from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), there were 209,593 seafarers deployed in 2001, from 204,951 in 2002.
In the Labor Force statistics of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), there were 216,031 sea-based workers in 2003, which increased to 229,002 in 2004.A recent DOLE statement cited that global deployment of seafarers on a quarter to quarter basis rose by 82 percent from January to April this year.
Seafarers' inward dollar remittances also increased by 21 percent to $257 million from January to February alone.
DOLE officials expect deployment of seafarers to hit 250,000 by end-December. And yet, according to government statistics, more than half of Filipino maritime graduates are currently jobless. Not everyone who studies to become a seaman will necessarily become one.