The Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday, March 18, started to step up its drive against the trafficking of Filipino minors in the wake of reports that trafficking syndicates are once again recruiting minors to work in other countries.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other international airports in the country to carefully screen departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“This syndicate has stopped deploying underaged women, following last year’s numerous interceptions, as well as arrests by local authorities. However, it seems that this scheme is making a comeback. I implore our kababayans (countrymen) who wish to work abroad, do not fall victim to these syndicates,” he said.
He instructed BI port operations chief, Grifton Medina, to alert BI personnel manning immigration booths at the airport to watch out for passengers who appear to be minors or below 23 years old as well as conduct strict screening of departing OFWs to make sure they are of legal age and eligible for overseas deployment.
“In cases of doubt, passengers should be referred to the travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) for secondary inspection,” Morente said.
The measure was ordered after a 21-year-old Filipina household worker was intercepted on March 13 by BI officers at the NAIA terminal 1 before she could board a Philippine Airlines flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Filipina admitted during questioning that her real age is 21 and not 25 as indicated in her passport, according to Glenn Ford Comia, BI TCEU NAIA 1 head supervisor.
Comia added that the passenger only found out that her birthdate was changed when she received her travel documents from her recruiter on the day of her flight.
More than a hundred OFWs, many of them minors, were reportedly intercepted at NAIA by the BI last year. All of them possessed passports with falsified birthdates, although they had valid overseas employment permits, working visas, and job contracts.