A party-list lawmaker on Tuesday sought a congressional inquiry into the complicity of a cruise ship and its owner in the illegal recruitment of 200 Filipinos for jobs as entertainers, cooks, and waiters in Micronesia.
“We intend to ascertain whether m/v Forever Lucky managed to sneak Filipino job recruits out of the country in the past, before it was caught red-handed,” ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III said.
“Regardless, the ship should be red-flagged by the authorities. From here on, the vessel should be subject to stricter boarding and inspection every time it leaves a Philippine port,” Bertiz, member for the House minority bloc, said.
Bertiz said he would file a resolution on the matter to enable the House committees on labor and employment and on overseas workers affairs to investigate the case.
Forever Lucky is owned by Fahrenheit Co. Ltd., which operates out of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and supplies construction materials to Micronesia, according to Bertiz.
“We understand that Fahrenheit also engages in business in Micronesia. The company may have enlisted the workers for its own operations there, or for the activities of its business partners there,” Bertiz said.
Micronesia refers to the Pacific archipelago that includes the US territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Wake Island.
Forever Lucky was about to leave the Port of Orion in Bataan on July 3 when it was held by the Philippine Coast Guard, which became suspicious of the ship’s large number of passengers and called in the National Bureau of Investigation.
The NBI discovered that up to 200 Filipinos without foreign employment papers were simply told to bring their passports and board the ship by July 2 for jobs in Micronesia.
However, only 139 recruits actually showed up with their passports and boarded the ship. Maricel V. Cruz
Under the law, Bertiz said illegal recruitment refers to any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers for employment abroad, whether for profit or not when undertaken by a non-licensee.
Depending on the gravity of the offense, he said those found guilty could face 12 years to life in prison plus a fine of up to P5 million. Maricel V. Cruz