SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/21 August) — The number of victims of human trafficking here in the first half of this year has reached record high.
The Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI), a non-government organization based in Lipata Port and known for its effective measures on anti-trafficking programs revealed that the number of victims they have assisted has reached a record high of 227. Of this number, 63 are female minors.
VFFI’s regional head coordinator Zenaida E. Calungsad told MindaNews this number is more than last year’s total of 164, 89 of them women and children.
In 2004, VFFI recorded 244 victims but that was for the period of 12 months. This year, the figure has reached 227 and it is only the first six months of the year.
Nineteen of the 244 victims in 2008 were rescued during the first and second quarters.
Calungsad said that in the first six months this year, authorities have filed four cases, including one against a suspected foreign recruiter, for violation of Republic Act 9208 or An Act to institute policies to eliminate trafficking in persons especially women and children, establishing the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons.
This was achieved through the joint efforts of the Philippine Port Authority-Port Police, the VVFI, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Philippine Coast Guard.
Calunsag said most of the victims, especially the minors, were returned to their families.
She said 11 suspects are currently facing charges but some of them are still at large and the rest were able to post bail for their temporary liberty.
Calunsag noted that Mindanao is one of the primary sources of human trafficking in the country.
Port Police Chief Inspector Eugenio Lira, Jr. said Surigao City is the strategic point of destination going to the north or south of the country.
Bus lines operate the Davao-Manila route via Lipata port.
He said much cheaper fare and lenient enforcement of the law attract illegal recruiters here.
He added that human trafficking is rampant here because there are many ways of leaving the city. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)