The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) has mobilized its regional task forces to effectively prevent mass trafficking of indigenous peoples (IPs).
“As a preventive and proactive approach, the IACAT will further strengthen its Regional Task Forces and review existing travel and security measures at entry points to effectively implement our anti-trafficking laws and better protect IPs and other vulnerable groups,” IACAT said in a statement issued on Thursday, June 10.
IACAT made the assurance after law enforcement agents rescued 303 Badjao IPs last June 4 at the Manila North Harbour Seaport. They came from Zamboanga City.
“The National Bureau of Investigation has been tasked by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra (chair of IACAT) to conduct an investigation that will take place parallel to the ongoing investigation of the Philippine National Police-Women Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC),” it said.
It pointed out that the mass arrival of the 303 Badjaos was in “violations of the Republic Act (RA) No. 9208 also known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, as amended by RA 10364, and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.”
“Initial investigations show that their travel was facilitated and sponsored by an undisclosed individual,” it said.
A total of 232 rescued IPs has already left aboard a 2GO ship bound for Zamboanga City.
“All passengers bound for Zamboanga City underwent antigen swab tests and will be provided with shelter, hot meals, and other social services by the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) Region 9 upon their arrival,” the council said.
“Prior to their departure, they were likewise provided with various forms of assistance by the DSWD-National Capital Region and the City of Manila,” it added.
But it said that 71 of the 303 rescued Badjao IPs “remain in Manila and are currently in a temporary shelter in Quezon City.”
“Among those who remain in Manila, four have been identified to have COVID-19 (coronavirus disease), and are now in a government isolation facility together with 23 other IPs considered as close contacts,” it also said.
“The rest of the 44 IPs were found to have legitimate travel purposes and are already being assisted by the DSWD and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP),” it added.