KASAMA Vol. 16 No. 2 / April-May-June 2002 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

By Jowel F. Canuday / MindaNews / 28 April 2002


A monitoring and emergency center on child trafficking set up by child rights advocates and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) was inaugurated here yesterday inside the compound of the Davao International Seaport in Sasa in a bid to intercept the trafficking of children and women. The halfway house, dubbed "Balay Silungan sa Daungan" (Home Shelter at the Port) will provide 24-hour "safety and catchment" services for victims of trafficking intercepted by child rights advocates and government personnel.

The center, jointly established by the NGO, Visayan Forum Foundation (VF) and the PPA, will also provide victims of child trafficking a temporary shelter, referrals in pursuing legal actions against their recruiters and telephone hotline counseling. VF-Mindanao regional coordinator, Luzviminda Panes, said the center will also provide mechanisms to protect children who travel alone or are stranded at the seaport.

Panes said VF set up a similar center inside the compound of the Manila South Harbor last year amid reports that many of the traffickers …pass through the port en route to the sweatshops and brothels in Metro Manila. …VF considers both the Davao and Manila ports as major gateways of recruiters and pimps who entice girls and young women into working as domestic helpers or workers in sweatshops mostly in Manila. Panes said that since the seaport is the gateway of child traffickers, it is also a critical place where they can easily monitor and intercept the trafficker and their victims.

She said victims of trafficking can be tracked down and easily spotted in seaports because they usually board the ship in groups of about three to around 10 persons and stick together, apparently on strict instructions from their recruiters. She said victims, most of them under 18, claim they are 18 years old when asked about their ages. Panes said illegally recruited children are often accompanied by a single adult.

She said a study conducted by the VF among 70 victims of trafficking intercepted by the government authorities at the Sasa wharf showed most of them came from the rural towns of North Cotabato, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, Butuan City and Davao City.

This article was downloaded from
Minda News: A Weekly Publication of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center

The following is an extract from the VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, 27th Session.

Geneva, 27-31 May 2002

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you the position of Visayan Forum Foundation, an NGO from the Philippines which has been working with child domestic workers for the past 10 years. In particular, I would also like to focus on the unexplored connection between this issue and that of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

First a question: among other things, what helps keep the Asian family alive despite the increasing pressures of economic globalization? It is the everyday army of maids, cooks, and babysitters who remain out of sight and out of mind while they free working mothers and care for children in exchange for low salaries that they remit back to their poor families in rural areas. They are the hidden workforce multipliers that make the formal labor force more productive. In the Philippines, for example, we estimate that if this one million strong sector were to remit at least half their average salary of US$16 a month, they would be silently infusing some US$8 million a month or US$96 million a year to their cash-stripped families in the provinces.

Societies therefore still desire and necessitate the existence of domestic workers. The practice is still so deeply rooted that many working people prefer to hire someone else to do housework under an employer-employee arrangement, and possibly an even younger person as an extension of the family.

But few child domestic workers truly become part of the family, as many are still considered indentured servants. And if they were hired as workers, they are still treated as slaves - always on call and paid only enough to cover their subsistence, and wear and tear. This is far from the very definition of decent work. This is obviously not right. …Young domestic workers should be given the same attention that has been accorded to migrant overseas workers and other organized laborers.

In the Philippines alone, there are around one million domestic workers - mostly children, some as young as nine years old. This is too large a sector to ignore; yet it remains invisible and neglected. Let me broadly outline very important characteristics of the child domestic work issue in the Philippine context, which has many similarities to other Asian countries:

…Let us depart from the common myth that the child domestic work issue is to be confined only to national policy-making and action. This is a very sensitive national issue that can shake the very economic and social foundations of the developing world. Domestic workers, including millions of children, are the hidden workforce that provide comfort zones and competitive advantage to the expanding Asian, African and Latin American middle class. Let our platform therefore be supportive to the benefits of domestic work, while we also boldly address its disturbing features.

Visayan Forum Foundation Inc.
2873 Lamayan Street, Sta. Ana,
1009 Manila, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 562 7821
Fax: +63 2 563 4514