13 suspected human trafficking victims rescued in Zamboanga City

Robie de Guzman   •   December 17, 2019   •   706

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday reported it has rescued 13 suspected victims of human trafficking at a Port in Zamboanga City.

In a statement, the PCG said the victims, who were all women, were rescued on Monday, December 16 while onboard MV Antonia-1 which was bound for Sandakan, Sabah.

Initial investigation revealed that the majority of the victims came from Luzon, and that the vessel was operated by Aleson Shipping Line Incorporated.

After undergoing a profiling process, the victims were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for further investigation and case build-up operation.

7 alleged human trafficking victims intercepted at NAIA – BI

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday said its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) recently intercepted seven Filipinos who were suspected of being victims of human trafficking.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Filipino women were bound for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The agency’s travel control and enforcement unit stopped the women from leaving last Sept. 17 when they were about to board a flight to Dubai.

The bureau said three of the women were allegedly hired to work as caregivers in the UAE while the remaining four were recruited to work as marketing and sales agents for an interior design company.

The women attempted to leave by posing as first-time overseas Filipino workers but the papers they presented turned out to be fraudulent, the BI added.

“Verification made on the overseas employment certificates (OECs) they presented revealed that some of them are not in the records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), while the others appear to have been issued to other persons,” BI-TCEU Chief Ma. Timotea Barizo said.

A check of the passengers’ UAE visas showed that they were traveling to Dubai only as tourists and not as workers, she added.

The women, whose names could not be divulged following anti-trafficking laws, were later turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance and further investigation.

Morente once again warned those who want to work abroad not to deal with unregistered agencies or recruiters as these shady characters are employed by human traffickers to recruit their victims.

“We were told that these intercepted victims all said that they met their handlers and recruiters via social media and that their travel papers were only handed to them a few days before their scheduled flights,” he said.

“They did not know that these fraudulent papers could result in interception by our officers,” he added.

The BI chief earlier said that human traffickers have resumed their nefarious activities despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

PH security forces foil bomb plot in Jolo, Sulu

Robie de Guzman   •   September 21, 2020

A bomb plot in the capital town of Jolo in Sulu province believed to have been orchestrated by local terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was foiled by the Philippine security forces, the military said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said, this is after the elements of the Philippine Coast Guard-Explosive and Ordnance Division (PCG) discovered a baggage that contained an improvised explosive device allegedly planted at the local port on Saturday.

The military added that a PCG patrol team found the abandoned baggage between the office of the Harbor Master and the Maritime Police Office at Jolo port.

A K9 unit deployed to the area confirmed that the baggage contained a bomb.

Operating troops of the 35th Infantry Battalion immediately cordoned off the area while the bomb squad carefully disarmed the explosive which was assembled using two electric blasting caps, a rifle grenade, a spark plug and concrete nails.

“I commend our troops and our partners for the accomplishment. You saved the lives of the innocent people and foiled this terroristic activity of our heartless enemies,” said Brig. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the anti-terror Joint Task Force Sulu.

AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. also commended the troops.

“This success is a result of the intensified conduct of intelligence operations and the strengthened collaboration with the police and other security agencies, thus preempting the terrorists from executing their terror plan. I commend the troops of the JTF Sulu for a job well done,” he said.

The military said tight security measures remain in place as government troops continue to pursue ASG leader Mundi Sawadjaan who was said to the brains of the twin bomb attacks in Barangay Walled City in Jolo barely a month ago that killed 14 people and injured others. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Val Villaflor)

PCG, BOC strengthen cooperation on border patrol, anti-smuggling ops

Robie de Guzman   •   September 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have agreed to enhance their cooperation on border control, anti-smuggling and other customs fraud.

This is through the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Thursday for the joint manning and operation of 20 newly-procured fast patrol boats of the BOC.

In a statement, the PCG said that under the MOA, Coast Guard commandant Admiral George Ursabia and Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero have agreed to work together for the efficient utilization and navigation of these 12-meter floating assets for the performance of law enforcement functions to uphold security, peace, and order within the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.

Under the MOA, the BOC shall have the authority to deploy the fast patrol boats for law enforcement missions, while the PCG shall share its technical expertise in operating and navigating said floating assets and ensure that knowledge and skills are efficiently transferred to BOC personnel.

In an event of natural calamity or national emergency, the PCG, upon proper coordination with the BOC, may utilize the fast patrol boats in conducting search and rescue (SAR) operations and responding to maritime incidents.

Each fast boat shall be manned by a total of nine crew members, composed of five BOC personnel and four PCG non-officers, who satisfactorily completed the Small Boat Operation and Management Course.

While the PCG assists the BOC in maintaining the fast patrol boats, the BOC shall be responsible in allocating funds for the daily preventive maintenance of equipment or machines onboard, procurement of spare parts and other consumables, as well as dry docking and other repair activities.

“We are honored to further collaborate with the Bureau of Customs in deterring and preventing illegal activities in our country’s waters. Rest assured that we will pursue our commitment in keeping the Philippine maritime jurisdiction safe and secured,” Ursabia said.

“I look forward to the successful implementation of this agreement. I am grateful to the Philippine Coast Guard for assisting us in the enforcement of laws pertaining the border control, prevention of entry of smuggling, and other customs fraud that hinder the growth of our national economy,” Guerrero added.

The MOA took effect on September 10 and shall be referred in full force and effect for a period of five years.

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