Palace: Sex trade in evacuation camps being addressed

By Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 12 2014 09:56 AM | Updated as of Apr 12 2014 05:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government is working to prevent human trafficking and sex trade from thriving in disaster-hit areas as reports say prostitution has become prevalent in and around evacuation camps in Zamboanga City.

Based on reports, many evacuees see prostitution as a way to survive. The United Nations has warned that trafficking, particularly of children, could increase in disaster-stricken areas because of abandonment or loss of family members or guardians.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing Thursday that the Department of Social Welfare and Development was monitoring the situation in different evacuation centers in the country to ensure the welfare of evacuees.

He said many people were affected not only by the siege in Zamboanga City by Moro National Liberation Front members but also by the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and other disasters like Typhoon Yolanda last year.

Coloma said part of the government’s duties was to ensure that women and children in evacuation centers and other areas were protected. He said religious and civic organizations could also work together to help the survivors.

“I assure you that the government is determined to monitor the situation in evacuation centers. Their families should not have additional sacrifice or suffering,” Coloma said.

He said the survivors suffered enough from the consequences of the disasters and violence in Mindanao and the government would not allow prostitution to continue in temporary shelters.

One of the major thrusts of the administration is to stop human trafficking, Coloma said, noting that prostitution was an aspect of trafficking.

The Zamboanga City police said they have increased patrols in the evacuation centers and adjacent areas to prevent prostitution.

Health officials are also working to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among the evacuees, Coloma said.

Aside from instances of sex trafficking, labor abuses may also go up in disaster-hit areas, according to the UN.

Child traffickers might take advantage of the situation and persuade children to engage in sexual slavery and labor bondage, it added.