MANILA, Philippines – Justice Undersecretary and Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) head Jose Vicente Salazar said the problem of human trafficking extends far beyond the country’s borders and that there is an urgent need for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss and formulate policies to ensure that human trafficking is put to a stop.

“There is a very compelling need to discuss human trafficking concerns in the ASEAN context so that a region-wide solution can be formulated to combat the menace of human trafficking,” Salazar said in the wake of successive successful aiding of trafficked victims in Singapore and Malaysia.

“We didn’t expect this, not in Singapore. I hope that this will be an eye-opener for the government,” Salazar said as he also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to immediately open diplomatic channels to address the problem of human trafficking in ASEAN.

The DFA must also be pro-active in making sure that Filipinos do not become victims of human trafficking on foreign shores and be ready to extend guidance and assistance to nationals who became victims.

Salazar personally met a trafficked victim from Singapore last Monday at the NAIA and expressed surprise that human trafficking happens right within the financial district of Singapore, a first world economy at that. IACAT has also aided another victim from Singapore a week earlier.

Rumors of prostitution of Filipinos in Singapore abound but with the aiding of at least two Filipinas, the government already has clear proofs of such. “It is about time that the government does an honest assessment about the condition of Filipinas in Singapore,” Salazar said.

A composite team of IACAT also successfully assisted two trafficked victims in Johor Malaysia two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Immigration and intelligence officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals will undergo retraining and refresher seminars as part of a program to bolster their capability in combating human trafficking and thwarting the entry of illegal aliens.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said more than a hundred BI employees assigned at the NAIA and at the Intelligence Division are required to attend the seminars on airport operations procedures and immigration intelligence gathering.

David said that aside from personnel manning the immigration counters, immigration supervisors and intelligence agents will also undergo retraining.
“This project is in line with the thrust of President Aquino to re-energize the government bureaucracy by eliminating corruption and professionalizing the rank and file,” the BI chief said.

David explained that the employees need to undergo retraining in order to refresh their knowledge and skills on airport immigration operations and update them on current immigration practices, policies, structures and procedures.

The BI chief added that the trainings will boost the capability of BI personnel to detect fraud documents such as Philippine visas being issued by the DFA and other travel documents as well as increase their capability in intelligence-data gathering.

He added that similar retraining programs will later be conducted for BI employees assigned in the various ports nationwide, including Cebu, Clark, Davao, Zamboanga, Laoag and Subic.

BI spokesperson, lawyer Maria Antonette Mangrobang disclosed that some 50 NAIA-BI employees have been instructed to attend the seminars held last June 16 and June 23.

Mangrobang said the immigration officers and intelligence agents were excused from their duties while attending the seminars jointly conducted by the BI training center and anti-fraud unit.

“They were taught various topics on immigration laws and procedures, including fraudulent travel document detection, and profiling of undesirable aliens,” said senior immigration officer Rodolfo Gino, one of the lecturers in the seminars.

Gino said the bureau is presently designing a new training module for its immigration officers “to enhance their capability in performing their jobs as gatekeepers of the country. –Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star)