IACAT identifies Sorsogon ports as child trafficking hot spots

May 18, 2012 9:49 pm 

By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, May 18 -– The Inter-Agency Council Against Child Trafficking (IACAT) has identified three seaports in Sorsogon province as “hot spots” for human trafficking.

IACAT head lawyer Ryan Inoncencio said on Friday the seaports serving as exit points for human trafficking in the island province of Masbate and the Visayas were that of Pilar, Bulan and Matnog roll-on, roll-off (Roro) facilities.

The ports in Pilar and Bulan towns, respectively, serve as the jumping board between Sorsogon and Masbate province covering its mainland and the islands of Ticao and Burias.

The port in Matnog town is considered the busiest Roro terminal, serving ferry boat trips to and from Samar and serving as the main transportation link between Visayas and Mindanao regions and Luzon.

Taking advantage of the poverty and limited employment opportunities confronting residents in Masbate, the poorest province in Bicol; and Samar, among the 10 poorest in the country; are human trafficking syndicates recruiting workers including minors for deployment in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Most of the time, minors, particularly girls victimized by these syndicates, end up in force labor and prostitution, according to Inoncencio.

Last week, police operatives in Masbate City arrested a suspected human trafficker with 12 recruits, five of them minors while attempting to board a passenger boat from the Masbate port to Pilar.

Masbate PNP provincial director Sr. Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit identified the suspect as Ricky Astilla, 30, who has been charged by the Masbate police for violation of or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9208).

Human trafficking and prostitution of children in the Philippines were significant moral and legal issues due to the control and power organized by crime syndicates, Inoncencio said.

Other laws giving protection to workers, children and women are Republic Act No. 7610, the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, that provides protection of children against abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, and employment in illicit activities.

The Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160) also includes provisions for the proper development and welfare of children at the basic political level, the barangay, and enjoins local officials to promote and support activities for the protection and total development of children.

The Masbate victims, particularly the minors who were reportedly promised jobs in Bulacan, were turned over to the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for proper dispositions while the rest were sent home after necessary documentations.

“We are also calling on the public, particularly parents of minors, to be extra careful in dealing with persons especially strangers recruiting workers for Metro Manila and other areas outside of their respective towns to avoid being victimized by human traffickers,” Inoncencio said.

Human trafficking was a new form of slavery and abuse against innocent persons, including children who were taken into force labor and prostitution, and fighting it required the cooperation of the public and the community, he said.

This crime often times victimizes people in far-flung villages where poverty is prevalent that is why, Inoncencio said, IACAT had been formed with members, including the PNP, DSWD, Department of Labor, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) among others to serve as government arm against this social problem.

Human trafficking in the Philippines according to Inoncencio included recruitment, transport, transfer and harboring of persons by threat, force or coercion or abduction, fraud or deception for exploitation.

The most prevalent forms of sex trafficking in the Philippines are prostitution, sex tourism and mail order brides including bonded labor and domestic work.

A recent report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said around 100,000 children in the Philippines were involved in prostitution with highest incidence in tourist areas where undetermined number of children are forced into exploitative labor operations. (PNA)

RMA/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

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