MANILA - Foreign women are trafficked into the country through the immigration bureau's issuance of visa upon arrival, a senator said Wednesday.
A Senate panel on Tuesday began looking into the prostitution of Filipinas and foreign women to Chinese expatriates and other foreigners in Metro Manila and other provinces through social media apps such as WeChat and Telegram.
Accredited travel agencies offer to "convert" VUAs to "any other work document" in the country for P10,000, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.
The VUA is issued by the Bureau of Immigration to foreign tourists for P1,250, Hontiveros said.
"How are they able to do that at bakit nagiging sulit para sa mga apparently China-based foreign syndicates involved in kidnapping, trafficking that could be related to or the same sa mga prostitution syndicates here in the Philippines? They charge, they sell the ‘services’ of these women and children," she told ANC's Early Edition.
"Kailangan tingnan kung may accountability, collusion ba 'yung BI officials natin dito sa paggamit ng VUA."
The Philippines on Tuesday stopped issuing VUAs to Chinese nationals in a bid to prevent a new virus that has killed more than 100 and infected thousands since emerging in China last month.
The VUA scheme began after the industry of the Philippine offshore gaming operations started in 2016, Hontiveros said.
"Nung umusbong ang POGO industries, sabay umusbong 'yung China in-bound trafficking. They advertise their services very openly and graphically. May price scheme talaga. Anong ipagagawa, anong nationality, how many hours," she said.
"It's a thoroughly cynical commercial transaction. Parang produkto ang tao, ang babae."
Authorities have launched 6 raids in Metro Manila and Cebu since last year and have rescued some 144 prostituted women, most of whom were Chinese, Hontiveros said.
Of this figure, 100 were deported to their country of origin, some were supposedly assisted by a Chinese lawyer and released to their relatives in China, while others were released in the Philippines, she added.
The senator slammed the BI, which she said did not monitor the activities of the foreign nationals even after the police raids.
"Butas-butas ang records ng BI. Kahit matapos ma-raid, they cannot tell for sure what happens to the women after," she said.
"They couldn’t tell for sure how many left, came back, ilan ang narerecycle, how many returned to prostitution."
The next Senate inquiry will look into the prostitution dens' links to syndicates in China and the proliferation of prostitution in the POGO industry, Hontiveros said.