MANILA -- Over 7,000 out-bound Filipino travelers were barred from leaving the country in the first quarter of 2019 due to the government’s intensified campaign against human trafficking, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported on Tuesday.
In a statement, BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said a total of 7,311 passengers were deferred for failure to comply with requirements for travelers bound overseas, from January to March.
“We have been very careful in assessing these travelers as we wanted to ensure that they will not be victimized by human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” he explained.
The BI official added that in screening departing passengers, they follow the guidelines on departure formalities for international-bound passengers by Department of Justice (DOJ).
He said that BI officers are duty-bound to strictly screen departing passengers because they “constitute the last line of defense in the government’s drive to combat trafficking in our ports”.
On the other hand, Medina clarified that being disallowed does not mean perpetual denial to depart the country.
“Passengers whose departures were previously deferred will be allowed after complying with requirements based on the DOJ guidelines,” he said.
“These requirements were set by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to ensure that our kababayans are protected from being victimized abroad," the BI Port Operations Division head added.
Meanwhile, Erwin Ortañez, head of the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU), said more than 6,000 or about 84 percent of the passengers came from NAIA while the rest were stopped in the airports of Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.
He said that majority of the barred passengers had doubtful purpose of travel while some committed fraudulent acts such as misrepresentation and submitting spurious supporting documents.
Among them were the underage overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were caught falsifying their birth dates in their passports and some Filipino workers who presented fake overseas employment certificates (OECs).
Meanwhile, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente lauded port personnel for their vigilance even as he exhorted them not to relent in their efforts to combat human trafficking.
“We will continue our drive to protect our countrymen from these syndicates who keep on sending workers abroad illegally, making them prone to abuse and exploitation in foreign lands,” he said.
“The fight against human trafficking and illegal recruitment is a priority for this administration. Modern-day slavery has no place in this world, and we will make sure that Filipinos are protected from this threat,” Morente added.
Morente noted that the country retained its Tier 1 rating in the US State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which was achieved through their efforts and other partner agencies.
"We're one of the leading countries in the region when it comes to fighting human trafficking," said Morente.
The premier TIP rating was retained by the Philippines for the third straight year and is one of 39 countries among 186 surveyed that continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts to fight trafficking.
A Tier 1 rating is given to those who fully comply with the minimum standards of the US Trafficking Victim Protection Act. (PNA)