Villanueva: New travel guidelines unreasonable, burden to Pinoy travelers

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) are unreasonable and puts an additional burden on Filipino travelers. 

“Hindi naman po ata makatarungan na bigyan ng dagdag pasakit ang ating mga kababayan na gusto lamang pumunta sa ibang bansa para mamasyal. Daig pa po nito ang visa application sa dami ng mga kinakailangang dokumento,” Villanueva said. 

To investigate the government’s efforts against human trafficking, he filed Senate Resolution No. 762 to ask the appropriate Senate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the various initiatives of the government to strengthen its anti-trafficking in persons programs. 

“The prevention of human trafficking is an inter-agency task that not only involves providing stringent requirements on international-bound Filipinos, but also proper awareness and education among Filipinos, and the apprehension of law enforcement agents and other government officials who facilitate or connive with wrongdoers,” Villanueva said. 

“To enhance measures to effectively combat trafficking in person, there is a need to evaluate the existing programs being implemented by the government consistent with a whole-of-government approach,” he added. 

Villanueva said that IACAT has launched programs since 2011 with its 1343 Actionline to serve as the dedicated government hotline to combat trafficking. 

In 2019, Barangay IACAT Webinar was introduced to reach out to local government units, various communities and the general public so they can fully understand the actual situation of trafficking in persons in the countryside. The program also raises awareness among citizens on the proper procedure and venue for the filing of illegal recruitment complaints, which often lead to trafficking in persons. 

In 2020, IACAT partnered with Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center to launch the Integrated Case Management System to efficiently monitor cases of human trafficking. 

The most recent initiative was on August 17, 2023 when the 2023 Revised IACAT Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Filipino Passengers was issued. This will take effect on September 3. 

The new protocols have drawn flak from various sectors and individuals, who raised concern about extra burden, inconvenience and additional cost they will give the travelers. In addition, the revised guidelines have also raised concerns on its effect on the people’s Constitutionally-guaranteed right to travel, and considering the recent reports on the involvement of law enforcement agents in facilitating trafficking in persons. 

“Hindi natin pwedeng balewalain ang hinaing ng ating mga kababayan. Ang mga programa ba ng gobyerno ay susugpo sa traffickers, or nagpapabigat sa lehitimong mga pasahero?” Villanueva said.