Illegal recruiters find Surigao ports an ideal transit point

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/1 Sept) — Illegal recruiters now find it easier to use two of this city’s ports, known locally as Pantalan 1 and 2, as their transit point for large scale human trafficking activities without having to worry about the presence of law enforcers.

The recruiters have reportedly shied away from city’s other ports because of the strong presence of law enforcement agencies there.

Pantalan 1 and 2 is for smaller boats plying routes to nearby islands, like Siargao, Dinagat, Bucas Grande and Southern Leyte. Macapagal Port, or the “base port,” is where big vessels bound for Cebu and Manila dock. The Lipata Port is for bigger boats and roro (roll-on/roll-off) vessels going to Southern Leyte. There is yet another port catering to passengers bound for over 20 island barangays.

Because of this, public and private organizations have expressed concerns over the rampant human trafficking incidents that saw victims being usually shipped out of the city.

This came after the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.(VFFI) made public its report that the number of victims of human trafficking in the city has reached a record high for the first half of this year as compared to the previous years.

VFFI has recorded 227 victims — 63 of them female minors — for the first and second quarter of this year.

Last year, there were 164 victims, 89 of them women and children. The year 2008 saw a record of 225.

The victims, said VFFI regional coordinator Zenaida Calungsad, are usually brought to the Visayas and Luzon, the women forced to work as domestic helpers or in night clubs and sex dens, while the men do factory work at a pittance. Some minors have reportedly been recruited, too.

Philippine Ports Authority-Port Police Superintendent Froilan U. Caturla revealed that the police is losing grip of the problem because illegal recruiters and their victims loosely take motorized bancas at the Pantalan going to the Southern Leyte towns of Pintuyan, San Ricardo and Liloan.

He said that they could have prevented traffickers if they had jurisdiction over these smaller ports.

“Theses are not under the PPA. We don’t have jurisdiction of these areas unlike the base port and the port of Lipata,” Caturla told MindaNews.

He said the local government should do something about the situation as it has already reached an alarming level.

“Our city has been known as human trafficking capital,” Caturla lamented.

He suggested that the city and the province deploy men in the area so these illegal recruiters and traffickers could be arrested.

On the other hand, the VFFI has called the attention of city and provincial officials to address the problem.

Known for its effective measures in running after illegal traffickers, VFFI has been helping the victims in improving their lives, too.

“Running after these illegal recruiters is not our job; it’s the local government’s. We just simply assist the victims, give them advice through counseling and other things they need,” she said.

Calungsad said she wanted the city and the province to work hand in hand to eradicate the problem.

“If this will be neglected, our brothers and sisters might land a job full of uncertainties — underpaid, unsecured and dangerous,” she said.

The provincial government recently held a meeting with the Provincial Inter Agency Committee Against Trafficking and Violence Against Women and Children (PIACAT-VAWC).

They tackled the activity of the trafficking in Surigao as the transit point of illegal recruiters as well as the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)