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US govt notes growing number of men, boys in PHL human trafficking

More Filipino men and boys are becoming vulnerable to human trafficking as shown by trafficking figures in 2013, the US State Department said on Friday in a report on trafficking.

The State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report indicated that the Philippines remained at Tier 2, meaning it made significant efforts but still does not yet fully comply with minimum US standards to eliminate trafficking.
"Given the increase in the number of rescued male victims during the reporting period, the Government of the Philippines was urged to provide adequate protection for this growing vulnerable population and improve awareness among government officials of the vulnerability of men and boys to trafficking," the US Embassy in Manila said.
According to the report, the Philippine government and NGOs reported an "increasing prevalence of boys becoming victims of sex trafficking."
The US report said child sex trafficking, remains a serious problem, and "occurs in private residences, facilitated by taxi drivers who have knowledge of clandestine locations."
"Child sex tourists include citizens from Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Northeast Asia, Europe, and North America. Increasingly, very young Filipino children are coerced to perform sex acts for internet broadcast to paying foreign viewers," the report said.
The US State Department urged the Philippines to consider a range of measures to address human trafficking:
- increase availability of shelter and protection resources that address the specific needs of trafficking victims, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of male victims
- continuous trials to decrease the burden lengthy trials place on victims
- increase efforts to hold government officials criminally accountable for trafficking
- develop programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism.
- increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict an increased number of labor and sex trafficking offenders linked to trafficking within the country and abroad
- train civilian and military security forces on appropriate methods to handle children apprehended from armed groups
- develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism
- implement the anti-money laundering act in trafficking cases and provide victims compensation through seized assets
- increase the number of government officials, including police and prosecutors, whose duties are dedicated solely to anti-trafficking activities
- allow freedom of movement to adult victims residing in government facilities
- ensure the government’s armed forces or auxiliary armed groups do not recruit or use children and immediately and thoroughly investigate any such allegations
- continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for 
police, prosecutors, judges, local officials, and diplomats
- expand victim processing centers to additional localities to improve identification of adult victims and allow victims to be processed and assisted in a safe environment after a rescue operation
Also, the report urged the Philippine government to ensure victims had access to shelter and protection services that address the specific needs of trafficking.
US State Secretary John Kerry released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
The US government commended the Philippine government's efforts to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies nationwide.
It noted that added funding for the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) nearly doubled to the equivalent of about $2.4 million dollars in 2013.
The report also recognized government efforts to prevent the trafficking of overseas workers, and proactively identify and rescue victims exploited within the country.
It likewise noted 31 trafficking offenders were convicted in 2013, compared to 25 during the previous year.
The US government reiterated its commitment to help the Philippine government address human trafficking.
"U.S. law enforcement officials work with Philippine counterparts to enhance coordination and cooperation on trafficking crimes that cross borders as demonstrated by Operation Endeavor that dismantled a global international criminal group that was using children in the Philippines," it said.
"Our government is working with the Philippine government to create broad based economic growth to help prevent situations that enable trafficking, strengthen the prosecution of those who perpetuate this form of modern-day slavery, and protect victims of trafficking," it added.
Forced labor, sex trafficking of men
The report said the forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women, and children in the Philippines "remains a significant problem."
"Women and children from rural communities, areas affected by disaster or conflict, and impoverished urban centers are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in small factories, and sex trafficking principally in Manila, Cebu, Angeles, and cities in Mindanao, as well as within other urban areas and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerta Galera, and Surigao," it said.
Also, it said men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture, including on sugar cane plantations, and in fishing and other maritime industries.
Hundreds of victims are subjected to sex trafficking in highly visible business establishments that cater to Filipinos’ and foreign tourists’ demand for commercial sex acts, it said. — Joel Locsin /ELR, GMA News