PALAWAN VULNERABLE TO ‘SEX EXPLOITATION, TRAFFICKING’
Palawan province has been identified by the Department of Justice-Interagency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) as one of the most vulnerable provinces to human trafficking, commercial sex exploitation, and forced labor.
DOJ-IACAT USec. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar attrib- uted Palawan’s vulnerability to human trafficking to the “Balabac backdoor” in the southern Palawan that serves as entry point to Sandakan, Malaysia. Villar said the Philippines remains to be “a haven for human traffickers due to the issues of poverty, unemployment, internal armed conflict, natural disasters, and the likes, where men, women, and children be- come vulnerable to illegal recruitment.” “[Some areas are being used as backdoor exits such as] Balabac town in the southern part of Palawan and from there to Sandakan (Malaysia) or from Balabac to Mapun, Tawi-Tawi to Sandakan,” Villar pointed out. She said men are being trafficked to do forced labor, while children and women are for domestic forced la- bor or as workers in cybersex dens. “[They are being trafficked in forced labor, cybersex and sexual exploitation in] Metro Manila, central and northern Luzon, Cebu, Mindanao and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Palawan, and Siargao,” she said during the regional media seminar on September 13 to 14.
Villar said offenders are not afraid to use formal routes or airports as part of their trafficking scheme. In her presentation during the Regional Media Seminar for Trafficking in Person, Villa said, the Philippine National Police ( PNP) recorded 1,619 anti- trafficking operations; rescued 5,987 victims; and arrested 2,624 offenders. The National Bureau of Investigation ( NBI), on the other hand, has conducted 193 anti- trafficking operations; rescued 1,783; and arrested 577 suspected traffickers. An estimated 286 registered sex offenders were also banned from entering the country from 2016 to 2017. A report from the International Justice Mission ( IJM) showed they rescued 1,322 commercial sex victims and recorded 324 cases from 2001 up to 2016. The province also topped the region with the highest human trafficking incidents. Since 2015, 52 cases have been recorded where most of the victims were from Coron town trafficked to Malaysia, records of the Department of Social Welfare and Development showed. Palawan News tried to get comments from the Provincial Inter- Agen- cy Council for Trafficking but it has not replied so far. United States Ambassador Sung Kim assured that his country is helping fight human trafficking as “it is a critical problem, particularly in Palawan which being used a backdoor entry and exit to Malaysia.” “We are trying to assist Filipino efforts. We have a strong coopera- tion with different law enforcement agencies. We also had a number of success stories in combating human trafficking. We often cite this example as a sign of strong cooperation between our two countries,” Sung said. A strong military cooperation to address human trafficking, anti- piracy, and counter- terrorism, the ambassador said.