INTRAMUROS, Manila—The management of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) exhorted its officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports to keep up their vigilance after it was announced that the Philippines retained its Tier 1 ranking in the US government’s human trafficking index for 2019. “I commend and congratulate the men and women of our port operations division (POD) who guard our ports day and night to ensure that countrymen are saved from the scourge of human trafficking,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement. The Philippines retained for the fourth consecutive year its Tier 1 ranking in the recently-released 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report of the US Department of State. Morente said that the rating is “a tribute to your hard work and dedication to your duties as gatekeepers of our country.”
Morente urged Bureau of Immigration personnel in the different ports to “remain vigilant as there is no sign that these human trafficking syndicates who prey on the poor, including minors, will stop their nefarious activities.” Bureau of Immigration Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina, for his part, said “the latest TIP report will surely inspire and motivate POD personnel manning the ports to sustain their efforts in fighting human trafficking.” Medina said there will be no letup in the bureau’s anti-trafficking campaign even as he reported that more than 10,000 travelers were stopped from leaving the country from January to April this year, mostly for having incomplete travel papers and questionable purpose in going abroad. A Tier 1 rating means that the Philippine government fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has continually demonstrated serious and sustained efforts to combat human trafficking. The Philippines leads the ranking in East Asia and the Pacific, sharing the Tier 1 status with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Other countries mentioned in the report who were given a Tier 1 rating are Australia, Canada, France, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. "The Tier 1 status was given to only 33 countries all over the world," said Morente. "We are proud to be a big part in the government's efforts against human trafficking. We will not stop protecting our fellow Filipinos from this threat. The result of this report is a reminder why we do what we do," he added. The report also acknowledged the BI’s accomplishment in deferring the departure of 24,753 passengers due to incomplete or missing travel documents or misrepresentation, referring for investigation 286 potential cases of suspected trafficking, identifying 286 potential victims of trafficking, and arresting nine suspected traffickers. BI stopped 199 foreign registered sex offenders from entering the country last year, the same report stated.