As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the Philippines, and traffickers exploit victims from the Philippines abroad. Traffickers exploit women and children from rural communities, conflict- and disaster-affected areas, and impoverished urban centers in sex trafficking, forced domestic work, forced begging, and other forms of forced labor in tourist destinations and urban areas around the country, and traffickers exploit men in forced labor in the agricultural, construction, fishing, and maritime industries, sometimes through debt-based coercion. Family members sell children to employers for domestic labor or sexual exploitation, and hundreds of thousands of children involved in selling and begging on the streets are vulnerable to trafficking. One study found that approximately 50,000 Filipino children are employed as domestic workers in the Philippines, including nearly 5,000 who are younger than the age of 15. A significant percentage of working children face hazardous working conditions, including in mines, factories, and farms, where they likely experience indicators of forced labor. Indigenous persons and many of the approximately 340,000 IDPs in Mindanao are at risk of trafficking, including through fraudulent promises of employment. Non-state armed groups operating in the Philippines, including the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army, the Maute Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, unlawfully recruit and use child soldiers – at times through force – for combat and noncombat roles. In previous years, the AFP allegedly unlawfully recruited and used children in support roles; however, there were no reports of recruitment or use during the reporting period. Non-state supporters of ISIS have exploited women and girls in sexual slavery in the Philippines. Orphans and unaccompanied children are vulnerable to recruitment by armed forces and nonstate groups.
Each year, the government processes approximately 2.3 million employment contracts for Filipinos to work overseas in nearly 170 countries. Traffickers exploit a significant number of Filipino migrant workers in sex or labor trafficking in numerous industries, including industrial fishing, shipping, construction, manufacturing, education, home health care, and agriculture, as well as in domestic work, janitorial service, and other hospitality-related jobs, particularly in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, but also in all other regions. Saudi and Omani diplomats exploit Filipino workers in domestic servitude in Europe and the United States, and there are reports of perpetrators physically abusing or murdering Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait. Traffickers, typically in partnership with local networks and facilitators and increasingly using social networking sites and other digital platforms, recruit unsuspecting Filipinos through illegal recruitment practices such as deception, hidden fees, and production of fraudulent passports, overseas employment certificates, and contracts to exploit migrant workers in sex and labor trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit dozens of Filipino domestic workers to work in the UAE but instead have transported them to Damascus for forced domestic work. Using tourist visas available in Middle East countries where many Filipinos work in household service jobs, traffickers lure children from remote areas of Mindanao and other regions then sell them to employment sponsors who exploit them. Traffickers use student and intern exchange programs and fake childcare positions, as well as porous maritime borders, to circumvent the Philippine government and destination countries’ regulatory frameworks for foreign workers to evade detection. Traffickers often exploit Filipinos already working overseas through fraudulent employment offers to work in another country. Traffickers sometimes take advantage of the absence of adequate immigration personnel at smaller airports in the Philippines. Observers report traffickers are increasingly using “intra-company transferee” and “short-term visitor” visas – both legitimate and fraudulent – to facilitate the travel of Filipino engineers and undergraduate students to Japan, where traffickers subsequently exploit them in forced labor in factories.
Sex trafficking frequently occurs in tourist destinations, such as Boracay, Angeles City, Olongapo, Puerto Galera, and Surigao, where there is a high demand for commercial sex acts. Child sex trafficking remains a pervasive problem, typically abetted by taxi drivers who have knowledge of clandestine locations. Many sex tourists in the Philippines are convicted or charged sex offenders or pedophiles in their home countries and are most commonly citizens of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States with an increasing number of reports from Canada, Morocco, Iraq, and Denmark. Filipino men also purchase commercial sex acts from child trafficking victims. Law enforcement information indicates that the Philippines is one of the largest known sources of OSEC, in which traffickers sexually exploit children, individually and in groups, in live internet broadcasts in exchange for compensation wired through a money transfer agency by individuals most often in another country, including the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The traffickers are often parents or close relatives who operate in private residences or small cyber cafes, and many child victims, girls and boys, are younger than 12 years old. Identified hotspots for this form of sex trafficking in Luzon and Visayas include Iligan, Lapu-Lapu, Pampanga, Quezon City, Malabon, Pasig, Taguig, and Caloocan. Reports cite a nearly 265 percent increase in unconfirmed reports of online child sexual abuse during the pandemic. Economic impacts of the pandemic, combined with an increased amount of time children spent at home, resulted in an increasing number of families forcing their children into online sexual exploitation. Traffickers exploit People’s Republic of China (PRC) national and other Asian women in commercial sex in locations near POGOs that cater to PRC nationals; however, in 2020 the pandemic resulted in a massive departure of PRC nationals employed in offshore gaming operations, resulting in decreased reports of sex trafficking among this community.
Traffickers exploit Filipino nationals in forced labor in cyber scam operations located primarily in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. Traffickers also exploit victims from Southeast Asia, in forced labor in cyber scam operations at POGOs. PRC nationals employed in the Philippines at worksites affiliated with the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative were vulnerable to forced labor. Some officials in law enforcement, immigration agencies, and other government entities are allegedly complicit in trafficking or allow traffickers to operate with impunity. Some corrupt officials allegedly accept bribes to facilitate illegal departures for overseas workers, operate sex trafficking establishments, facilitate production of fraudulent identity documents, or overlook illegal labor recruiters. Reports in previous years asserted police conducted indiscriminate or fake law enforcement actions on commercial sex establishments to extort money from managers, clients, and victims. Anecdotal reports indicate police and local government units exploit individuals – who voluntarily surrender to officials running the government’s anti-drug campaign – to forced labor. LGBTQI+ individuals frequently experience discrimination and are vulnerable to trafficking. Natural disasters and climate-induced displacement significantly increases Filipinos’ vulnerability to trafficking due to a loss of livelihood, shelter, or family stability.