The Provincial Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking and Violence Against Women and Children (PIACAT-VAWC) has identified 12 barangays in five southern Palawan towns as human trafficking hotspots.

They are Boligay and Oring-oring in Brooke’s Point; Riotuba, Sapa, Sumbiling, and Buliluyan in Bataraza; Mangsee, Bugsuk, Bangcalaan, and Matangguli in Balabac; Pulot Shore in Sofronio Española; and Canipaan in Rizal.

In a press conference held Thursday, November 24, Palawan Peace and Order Program (PPOP) officer Milma Sangkula explained that the presence of ports and the close proximity of southern Palawan towns to other neighboring countries such as Malaysia made them ideal exit points for traffickers to transport victims.

During the period of November 2015 through September 2016, which is considered to be the peak of human trafficking in the province, PIACAT reported that it was able to rescue 95 women.

“Ito ‘yong year na 2015 to 2016 na sobrang dami talaga [ng narescue namin]. [Simula] noong 2017 medyo nag lie low sila kasi medyo nakaramdam na,” she said.

“Hindi ganoon karami ang nagpa-file ng case pero marami tayong narescue kasi regardless kahit 20 sila sa isang rescue, isang case pa rin ‘yon,” she explained further.

Aside from being hotspots, PIACAT noted that due to jurisdictional constraints, the majority of rescue operations were carried out in southern Palawan.

Once the victims arrive in Puerto Princesa, PIACAT will wait for their traffickers to transport them outside of the city, where it does not have jurisdiction, before confronting them and rescuing the victims.

“Sa Manila pa lang alam na natin. May coordination na sa atin na may ganitong grupo o human trafficking case na dadaan dito sa Palawan. Kaya bago pa sila dumating dito, talagang alam na natin kaya naabangan na sila. Papalampasin lang natin sila sa Puerto Princesa City kasi wala tayong jurisdiction dito, doon natin sila i-intercept sa Rio Tuba o Bataraza,” Sangkula said.

PIACAT stressed that human trafficking cases are not primarily found in southern Palawan.

Barangays and towns in northern Palawan, such as those in El Nido’s Poblacion and Dipnay, Taytay’s Liminangcong, Port Barton, San Vicente, and the towns of Cuyo, Coron, and Busuanga, were also deemed vulnerable.

Due to the presence of the port, airport, and tourism industry in the area, Puerto Princesa City is also listed by PIACAT as one of the high-traffic areas.

By way of an Executive Order, former governor Jose Chaves Alvarez established PIACAT in 2013.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.