Coast Guard rescues 16 human trafficking victims in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has intercepted and rescued 16 victims of human trafficking in Basilan province, an official announced Thursday.

Lt. Commander Noriel Ramos, Zamboanga Coastguard Station commander, said the victims were rescued Thursday at the port of Maluso, Basilan province.

Ramos said the victims were aboard a wooden-hulled vessel, M/L Paudian, that was scheduled to depart for Sabah–a Malaysian state that the Philippines has dormant claim–via the municipality of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi.

The Turtle Islands municipality, which the locals call Taganak, is located within the Sulu Sea at the south-western tip of the country, at the edge of the international treaty limits separating the Philippines and Malaysia.

Ramos said the victims comprised of 13 males, including three minors, and three adult females.

After interrogation, he said PCG personnel found out that the seven victims are from Zamboanga del Sur; Cagayan de Oro City, eight; and, one, Misamis Occidental.

He said the victims told PCG personnel that they were recruited by a certain Tong to work in Sabah.

He said they arrived in Zamboanga City around 7 a.m. Thursday after they were transported from Maluso and were assisted by the Zamboanga Sea-based Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATF).

He said the victims were turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Teofilo Garcia, Jr with reports from Ely E. Dumaboc/