MANILA, Philippines – A total of 184 individuals, believed to be victims of human trafficking, were rescued by Philippine Navy and Air Force personnel Monday night, according to a military spokesman.
Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the victims were rescued at around 11 p.m. in Zamboanga City.
The victims were on board ML Kadzrina, reportedly headed for Sandakan, Malaysia.
Tonsay said the 19 crewmembers on board the vessel were brought to Naval Forces Western Mindanao headquarters in Zamboanga City and will undergo investigation.
Tonsay said authorities have yet to determine the line of work offered to the 184 victims, who are all "undocumented and are believed to be victims of human trafficking."
“The victims appear to be in good condition and are currently under the care and further profiling and investigation," said Tonsay.
Meanwhile, NFWM chief Rear Adm. Armando Guzman said the rescue operation is part of the army’s drive against “lawlessness.”
"Human trafficking is not new to the area considering its maritime topography and strategic location within and outside the region, which is why collaborative operations from different AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] units and government and non-government groups such as these are very important," said Guzman.
"This successful operation is a glaring example of how the Navy implements and sustains its interagency operations capability to assist in national security and development efforts," he added.