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US report: PHL retains Tier 2 ranking in human trafficking

The Philippines retained its Tier 2 ranking in the United States Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012 after making progress in addressing human trafficking but falling short on producing convictions of illegal recruiters. According to a report of the US State Department on Wednesday, the Philippines was listed in Tier 2 category of states that do not fully comply with international anti-trafficking standards because victim identification and protection efforts remained inadequate.
The US called the Philippines “a source country and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”
“Rampant corruption at all levels” and “continues to enable traffickers and undermines efforts to combat trafficking,” the report said. Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay, also the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino worker concerns, said on Wednesday the Philippines will act on the recommendations of the US State Department against human trafficking.   Binay, who is also Chairman Emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said the Philippines also hopes to continue improving in its efforts to curb trafficking.   "We hope to sustain this consistency and improve upon our efforts to curb trafficking in persons in the country. We have taken note of the recommendations of the U.S. State Department and will act on these at the soonest possible time," he said on his Twitter account.   He said the Philippines' consistent performance is the result of the effective coordination from all member agencies of the IACAT.   Binay also pointed out that the Aquino administration has exceeded in the last two years the Arroyo administration's accomplishments in five years. Binay said there were 39 trafficking-related convictions in 22 months under the Aquino administration, compared to only 29 convictions of the previous administration from 2005 to June 2010.   "We were in Tier 2 Watch List status during the previous administration, in danger of being placed under Tier 3, which means being included in the list of countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking and subjected to U.S. foreign assistance sanctions," Binay noted. Efforts not yet enough “The government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the report said.  
The State Department report lauded Philippine efforts to:
  • train public officials in preventing human trafficking;
  • implement screenings at airports before Filipino migrant workers leave the country, and
  • forge bilateral agreements to protect its workers employed in foreign countries.  
Despite these, the US said the Philippines needs to do more to fight human trafficking, such as:
  • improving the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of both labor and sex trafficking offenders;
  • bolstering  the anti-trafficking training for police recruits, front-line officers, and police investigators.
  • increasing funding for anti-trafficking programs within local anti-trafficking member agencies, and
  • addressing the significant backlog of trafficking cases filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and in various local courts.  
Subjected to "involuntary servitude"  
 “A significant number of Filipino men and women who migrate abroad for work are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude worldwide,” it said.  
“Men, women, and children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in factories, at construction sites, on fishing vessels, on agricultural plantations, and as domestic workers in Asia and increasingly throughout the Middle East,” the report added.  
The report also noted that a significant number of Filipino women domestic workers abroad had been facing rape, physical violence, and sexual abuse while skilled Filipino migrant workers, such as engineers and nurses, are also subjected to conditions of forced labor abroad.  
It also identified Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, and Japan and in various Middle Eastern countries where Filipino women were subjected to sex trafficking.  
“Traffickers, in partnership with organized crime syndicates and corrupt law enforcement officers, regularly recruit family and friends from villages and urban neighborhoods, often masquerading as representatives of government-registered employment agencies,” it said.  
“Traffickers utilized budget airlines, inter-island ferries and barges, buses, and even chartered flights to transport their victims domestically and internationally,” it added.  
The State Department also criticized the prevalence of child sex tourism in the country.  
Child sex tourism, it said, “remained a serious problem in the Philippines, with sex tourists coming from Northeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and North America to engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”  
“Increasingly, Filipino children are coerced to perform sex acts for Internet broadcast to paying foreign viewers,” it said, adding that children in conflict-stricken areas also face increased vulnerability to trafficking and are also being used as child soldiers by local rebel groups.  
The State Department further recommended an increase in funding for the Justice Department’s program for the protection of witnesses, identify trafficking victims in destination countries and to pursue criminal investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.  
It should also develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts, it said. — Michaela del Callar, VVP, GMA News