Attempt to traffic PH women to Taiwan foiled
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it has thwarted an attempt by a syndicate to traffic three Filipino women recruited as sex workers in Taiwan.
Meanwhile the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) on Sunday asked law enforcement agencies to go after a Manila-based placement agency allegedly charging excessive and illegal fees to students participating in a scholarship program in Taiwan.
Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the three, together with two of their suspected attendants, also women, were intercepted at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 before they could board a Cebu Pacific Air flight to Taipei.
He said the five were subjected to further screening after giving inconsistent answers to questions by immigration officers and after they failed to explain the purpose and itinerary of their travel.
“[T[hese women were lured to make a living as sex workers,” the BI chief said in a statement, adding that their recruitment was a clear case of human trafficking.
Citing a report from the BI’s immigration protection and border enforcement section (I-Probes), Tansingco said the women initially claimed they were freelance models traveling to Taipei for a basic training course on the Chinese language.
But they eventually admitted to being recruited via Facebook to work as sex workers in Taiwan serving foreign clients.
The two companions were identified by authorities as the ones who arranged for the three passengers their travel and also processed their documents.
The three women claimed that they were told that their income would depend on how much time they spend with their customers and the types of activities they will engage with them.
They also recounted that they had been “interviewed” in Malate, Manila, where they were screened inside a room and asked to strip naked so their bodies could be “assessed.”
All five were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for further investigation and filing of appropriate charges.
Meanwhile, Meco chair Silvestre Bello III called on the Department of Migrant Workers to blacklist JS Contractor, a recruitment agency in the Manila district of Intramuros allegedly responsible for the illegal collection of fees from scholars.
Bello cited reports that JS Contractor collected P45,000 each from 32 students who arrived in Taipei on Nov. 2 under a scholarship program in one of Taiwan’s leading universities.
The amount was supposed to cover air fare, visa, a Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) and even an overseas employment certificate (OEC).
While the plane ticket and student visa fee were shouldered by the scholars, Bello said they were not required to undergo the PDOS and secure an OEC, which are only for Filipino workers for deployment overseas.
A one-way plane ticket to Taipei costs P10,000, and the processing fee for a student visa is only about P2,400.
“Aside from being too excessive, the collection of OEC and PDOS fees is patently illegal,” Bello said in a statement.
“This agency must be punished for its nefarious activities. It has to be prevented from further victimizing hapless young people whose families are seeing fresh hopes with their inclusion in the scholarship program,” he added.
The guidelines of Taiwan’s Ministry of Education provide that a university or college cannot accept scholars deployed through recruitment agencies.
The scholarship is a study-work program for Filipino students under Taiwan’s Academe-Industry Collaboration Program of the New Southbound Policy.
The recruitment of students is through a joint partnership with the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo-Scalabrinians, which approaches different dioceses in the Philippines.
Selected universities arrange internships with industrial or semiconductor companies. Students are provided with the opportunity for immediate employment after graduation.
So far, there are 201 recipients of the study-work program which started in March 2019.
According to Meco, the program has already produced two batches of Filipino engineers this year, with majority of them having secured jobs in Taiwan, while others returned to the Philippines to establish their own businesses or pursue higher studies.