Representatives from the United States have urged local government officials in Samar province in Eastern Visayas to intensify their campaign against human trafficking and protect their communities from what the delegates call modern-day slavery.
The nudge came as officials from various US government agencies at the US Embassy in Manila concluded their two-day (April 8-9) anti-trafficking summit in Tacloban City in Leyte province, a statement from the embassy said on Thursday.
“Just as the Philippines recognizes that the fight against human trafficking requires a whole-of-government approach, the participation of several US government agencies at today’s event demonstrates the United States’ commitment to helping the Philippines combat human trafficking,” Burak Inanc, deputy resident country director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Philippines, said.
At the end of the summit, the local officials signed a “Statement of Commitment” to actively implement anti-trafficking laws.
The statement is also a promise for officials to pass local anti-Trafficking in Persons (TIP) ordinances.
“This commitment will strengthen the efforts of cities and municipalities against TIP and provide more programs and services for TIP victims,” it said.
The summit, attended by officials from the Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (Iacat), the Philippine Commission on Women and the Council for the Welfare of Children, discussed challenges in addressing human trafficking, as well as strengthening referral systems that will encourage communities to be more vigilant in protecting citizens against TIP and violence against women and children.
It is an important component of a project that Millennium Challenge Account- Philippines (MCA-P) is implementing in Samar funded under the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with the Philippines, according to the embassy statement.
The Samar Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) is a partnership with Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) for TIP community awareness.
TIP mitigation initiatives under this partnership include information, education and communication campaigns and community-education and training sessions on TIP in SNRDP road-construction areas.
The community education sessions will train 559 social workers, police officers, teachers and community leaders as educators.
In turn, these trainees will conduct training in their respective communities with an aim to reach 14,000 individuals in barangay (villages) and schools on anti-trafficking laws with important information and awareness-raising about the twin issues of trafficking and violence.
Over 1,500 road construction workers have been trained on battling TIP under the SNRDP, the statement said.
The US has been a strong supporter of the Philippines’ fight against human trafficking, Rachael Parrish, Embassy Human Rights Officer, said.
“As we work to improve Samar’s transportation infrastructure, we are proud to support the efforts of the regional Iacat, local governments and civil society to ensure that the people of this region have the tools and the knowledge they need to continue the fight against modern-day slavery,” Parrish noted in the statement..
The representatives from the US Department of Justice, the United States Agency for International Development and the US Embassy’s Political Section joined the event as resource speakers and supporters.
In 2014, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report placed the Philippines under Tier 2—countries that have made significant progress but are not fully compliant with the act.
It also noted that Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013 displaced more than four million people in Leyte and Samar, already areas where people fall victims to human trafficking.
Although there was no exact figure pointing to an increase in post-typhoon trafficking, the report said the Department of Justice has investigated at least two typhoon-related trafficking cases.