A UK-based children's charity has asked the Philippines to investigate the suspected trafficking of children to work as sex workers in a region devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, an aid official said yesterday.
Plan International said it was concerned about five high school girls recruited in the aftermath of the November 8 typhoon in Basey and Marabut, two impoverished coastal towns on the island of Samar which suffered heavy damage and casualties.
Aid groups have expressed concern over the human trafficking threat sparked after Haiyan left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing. Children who lost their parents in the disaster, as well as adults in desperate search of work, are especially vulnerable, groups say.
"Samar is known as a source area for human traffickers," Plan International Philippines anti-trafficking project officer Shirley Vastero said, adding the girls were recruited by a family friend.
She said "hundreds" of women from Samar have ended up working in the red-light district of the northern city of Olongapo since 2008, when Plan International began a campaign against human trafficking on the island.
While the promised work for the five girls sounded legitimate, aid workers were suspicious because the parents were told their daughters would be working only at night, she said.
"They were recruited to work as sales ladies in a Manila bakery, but what kind of bakery is open only from 6pm until midnight?" she added.
Vastero said she did not have the exact age of the girls, adding that the Welfare Department had promised to look into the case.
The Philippine government has listed 109 children orphaned by Haiyan on Leyte island alone.