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Hontiveros calls for tighter interagency, regional cooperation vs human trafficking

A SENATOR on Thursday urged government agencies to strengthen internal coordination as well as enhance cooperation with other southeast Asian countries to address human trafficking after a dozen Filipinos were recently rescued from allegedly illegal Chinese offshore companies operating in Myanmar.   

“We need tighter border control in the Philippines to ensure our countrymen are not at risk to criminal syndicates,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement in Filipino.  

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the newly-formed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), and other government agencies should come up with long-term solutions against human trafficking.  

The DMW reported on Nov. 23 that it helped 12 Filipinos who fell victim to an online illegal recruitment scheme for a supposed job in Thailand, but they were brought to a remote part of restive Myanmar.   

The rescue operation was conducted along with the office of Ms. Hontiveros and the DFA.   

“Moving forward, there have to be clear transborder solutions. The Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia are bound by the ASEAN convention against trafficking in persons so there should be tighter coordination,” the senator said.   

Immigration Commissioner Norman G. Tansingco, meanwhile, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is investigating the incident.  

One of the victims said their group of 12 were able to leave the country without going through normal immigration procedures at the Manila airport.   

In a televised briefing on Thursday, BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia M. Sandoval said immigration officials found to be involved in trafficking schemes would face criminal and administrative charges.  

“We call on airport authorities to study weak spots that these criminal syndicates may exploit,” she said.  

The trafficking victims were offered jobs in customer service relations and technical support but were instead forced to work on bitcoin-related online scams. — John Victor D. Ordoñez 

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