Zamboanga City – Mayor Maria Isabelle “Beng” Climaco-Salazar has written Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, who is in charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to intervene and to thoroughly investigate the mass departure of Badjaos to Manila as well as provide long-term solutions to protect the interest of the indigenous peoples.
The Mayor made the same request to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, who is Cabinet Officer Responsible for Development and Security in Region 9, or CORDS in Zamboanga Peninsula.
She further expressed concern that the Badjaos may be victims of exploitation and trafficking by unscrupulous individuals.
Last Friday, June 4, authorities at the Manila North Harbor Seaport rescued 303 Indigenous Bajau People from Zamboanga and Basilan from the alleged violations of the Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9208 also known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, as amended by R.A. No. 10364, and R.A. No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.
237 of the 303 arrived in Zamboanga City Wednesday night via the 2Go vessel at the port area. Their arrival was facilitated by the Regional Inter-Agency Council- Zamboanga City Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ZCSBATTF) led by Fiscal Sharon Belisario.
The Badjaos underwent swab tests and were provided with shelter, hot meals and other services by the DSWD-9 upon arrival at the local port. The City Social Welfare Office under Socorro Rojas received those from the city after undergoing COVID safety protocols.
Mayor Climaco-Salazar said the June 4 Badjao exodus to Manila composed the largest group and was not the first time this year. Similar incidents were also recorded last April 27 when an undisclosed number; May 5 with 9 adults and 9 minors; May 30 with 3 adults and 3 minors.
“It is highly unusual for a very large group of Badjaos to be suddenly in an exodus from Zamboanga to Manila,” she said in her letter to Usec. Villar adding that “the lives of these indigenous peoples are in our hands and we have to look for an immediate and lasting solution. Being an advocate and champion on the rights of every individual we both share the same aspiration to protect their best interest.”
Villar invited the mayor to an international conference with Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito who was awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work against Human Trafficking.
(Sheila Covarrubias, photo courtesy of PCG | GCSWDO)