Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the convenor of the Philippines’ Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking, is expressing increased concern about human trafficking due to the “chaotic environment” brought about by typhoon Haiyan.
Internal trafficking has long been a concern in the Philippines, for men, women and children. According to HumanTrafficking.org,
People are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers including Manila, Cebu, the city of Angeles, and increasingly to cities in Mindanao, as well as within urban areas.
Men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in the agriculture, fishing, and maritime industries. Women and children are trafficked within the country for forced labor as domestic workers and small-scale factory workers, for forced begging, and for exploitation in the commercial sex industry. Filipino migrant workers (both domestically and abroad) who become trafficking victims are often subject to violence, threats, inhumane living conditions, nonpayment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents.
Although prostitution is illegal, hundreds of victims are subjected to forced prostitution each day in well-known and highly visible business establishments that cater to both domestic and foreign demand for commercial sex acts. Child sex tourism in particular remains a serious problem in the Philippines, with sex tourists coming from Northeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and North America to engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The United States 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report calls the issue in the Philippines “a significant problem.” Republican congressman Chris Smith, who led a U.S. delegation to the Philippines in late November, has said the situation is an opportunity for traffickers:
The most vulnerable — women, children, the elderly, and those with special needs — always fare worst during disasters.” At particular risk of sex trafficking are vulnerable people “who over a longer period of time may have lost some hope,” said Smith.
A joint statement issued by Catholic and Protestant churches in the Philippines states:
If they are becoming bold in committing this modern-day slavery, we have to be much bolder in fighting it. As a Church, we cannot just sit idly by while cases of human trafficking are piling up year after year.”