Once again Filipinos are under the microscope. Filipinos do not have the best reputation. When I started writing this article I was focused upon the Filipinos because that was the culture foremost in my mind. Living in NZ with my Filipino partner I long observed that NZ'ers do not share the world's negative perception of Filipinos. I assume it was because there were no young brides walking around with Western men 40 years their senior. Indeed this is the case. Most Filipinos in NZ are actually hardworking couples with children, who have no 'yen' for the old man with cash security. This type of lifestyle decision is more of an Australian, European and American activity, and of course the Filipinos do not have a monopoly on the practice.
The reputation of the Philippines is under challenge because of a number of incidents around the world. Consider these:
1. In 2010, President Aquino's soldiers conduct resulted in a bus load of Chinese tourists being assasinated by a soldier with a complaint. His indifference to the HK Chinese people caused the country to snub the Philippines.
2. In the last 10 years Filipino communities have taken advantage of mining investors in the Philippines by opposing such activity. i.e. All manner of extortion.
3. In the 1980s there was the Filipino nurse who charmed an Australian billionaire iron ore magnate, which caused a bitter feud with the daughter, the heir to the estate. The flamboyant Filipino was on TV showing Australians her wares.
4. In the 1980s there was incident with Imelda Marcos, the equally flamboyant first lady to Ferdinand Marcos, the corrupt president who stands accused of siphoning off billions from the Filipino taxpayer. She distinguished herself by claiming to have 3000 pairs of shoes; back in a time when materialism was unacceptable. i.e. When you citizens are starving, and the country languished in a power crisis.
5. About a decade ago there was the famous Bre-Ex scandal, in which a Canadian mineral explorer had claimed to have discovered an immense mineral deposit in Borneo worth many billions. The stock price of this company soared to exorbitant levels before crashing when it proved to be a fraud. The Filipino site geologist committed suicide by jumping from a helicopter into the Borneo jumgle. My guess is that he wanted God to decide his fate. Who knows how far the plane was off the ground. I suspect he was reaching for a tree.
6. Having lived in the Philippines, I can tell you that Filipinos are not the most honest, hardworking people in the world. The reality is that they tend to meet the best of them in the West because they are the aspirational ones who want to get out, and are prepared to work hard for it. In Australia, there is the 40-year age gap for some wives, but even still, many of these partners are dedicated to their husbands. Are they sham marriages? Hmm...only to the extent that they are defined by superficial or concrete values like money or security. Its actually not so different for many Westerners. i.e. Westerners place a high value on their partner's wealth.
Those seamen on the Ship 'Rena' were mostly Filipinos, and its probable that when the captain was having a birthday, they were, as utter 'collectivists' celebrating with him, with little thought to the impact of their neglect. This is what many uneducated Filipinos (employed as cheap seamen) are like in life; which is why as a matter of cultural prejudice, I would not leave a Filipino in charge of an important vessel. They are too readily influenced by their peers, as they are a friendly, affable people. They have an utter disdain for responsibility, and given the corruption in the Philippines, you can readily correlate such actions with their religious disdain for humanity (i.e. Original Sin) and thus their lack of responsibility.
In an industry with a lot of Filipino seamen...the solution is surely just to ensure that the Captain and his immediate subordinate are not from the Philippines for any ship over 10tonnes in weight. That is the cultural context in which they are raised, and their education system is not so great that we might expect otherwise from them. This job appeals to the uneducated.
I love Filipinos; my partner is one; I very much care for her family, but I have so much life experience to tell me that I would not make one the executive of a ship. This does not preclude Filipinos proving me wrong in some other area, but this is a level of safety I'd prefer so that I can preserve my love of the Filipino. You would not want an Indian attending to your needs as a call centre agent; you do not want a Filipino running a ship. Its as simple as cause and effect. Understand this, and they will realise that Filipinos ought to stay below the bridge; at least until the Philippines changes its cultural or educational context.
Reflecting further I have come to think that perhaps more problematic is the failings of the execute team in the Greek company, and its culture, which we might probably blame for the currency and economic crisis hindering those southern European countries. Indulgent Greek executives managing indulgent middle-managers. Surely a recipe for disaster.
Then we get to NZ, and we have the NZ authorities fumbling around for 4 days because there was inadequate preparations for this type of event. NZ is by no means a high-traffic maritime trade market, but basic equipment for transferring fuel did not work. Another issue is whether the Minister for Maritime Services asked the right questions or was mislead about the state of preparedness at Maritime NZ. These questions have still to be answered. Seldom does an accident arise because of the failings of one person. There is usually a number of persons who can raise questions but don't. Often this causes a 'gap in responsibility'. Sadly, the persons getting the blame seem to be the one's least able to answer back.