Four Filipina women believed to be headed to Cambodia to become surrogate mothers, despite the practice being banned since November, were reportedly intercepted by immigration officials as they attempted to board a flight in Manila.
According to media reports on Tuesday, the five women were set to begin the first leg of their journey to Bangkok when they were blocked by agents from the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration. Philippine Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the women were to be paid about $10,000 each by foreign clients to carry their children.
“This is a new modus operandi of a human trafficking syndicate that preys on our Filipina women who are enticed to bear children of strangers for a fee because of their poverty,” he said, according to Philippine newspaper Sunstar.
The women told officials they were to meet a Cambodian broker in Phnom Penh who had prearranged deals with couples from Germany, Nigeria, Australia and China. Philippine authorities were also informed of a second group expected to depart for Cambodia.
The Cambodian government announced a ban on surrogate pregnancies in November. Soon after, Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles and two associates were charged with fraudulently requesting documents and acting as intermediaries between an adoptive parent and a pregnant woman.
Ms. Davis-Charles and nurse Samrithchan Chariya, 35, were questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.
Keo Thea, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking police, said he was unaware of the situation in the Philippines.
(Additional reporting by Ouch Sony)