The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has assured that it is watching closely the country’s southern international seaports against human trafficking.

“Traffickers might think that there is less regulation in our southern ports, hence attempts to send out trafficking victims there,” BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said.

“However, the IACAT’s (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) presence remains strong there, ensuring that victims are intercepted before departure,” he pointed out

Last Jan. 22, Tansingco said immigration officers intercepted at the Zamboanga International Seaport (ZIS) three Filipinos who posed as tourists but were discovered to be human trafficking victims.

Citing reports from the BI’s Immigration Border Protection and Enforcement Section (I-PROBES), Tansingco said the women were prevented from boarding a vessel bound to Sandakan, Malaysia after immigration officers found inconsistencies in their documents.

The reports stated that the women claimed that they were going to visit relatives in Malaysia but gave conflicting answers to questions asked of them by immigration officers during secondary inspection, he said.

“It was an obvious case of trafficking, as their documents were just handed to them before their trip,” he also said.

“They admitted to barely knowing each other, as this is a common modus of traffickers to send out groups pretending to be friends, officemates, or even relatives,” he added.

Those prevented from leaving the country have been turned over to the Zamboanga Sea-based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATTF) for further investigation and assistance.

“We commend our personnel at the Zamboanga port for their vigilance that resulted in the interception of these trafficking victims who were put out of harm’s way,” Tansingco said.