SECRETARY ROSALINDA DIMAPILIS-BALDOZ
ON THE TIER 1 RANKING OF THE PHILIPPINES IN THE
2016 US STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT
30 June 2016
“I am immensely proud to announce that the Philippines has been ranked in Tier 1 of the State Department 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.
“This is the highest ranking that a country could achieve in the annual US State Department Report for efforts in combating trafficking in persons. This is the first time that the Philippines has been placed in such rank since the US first issued its annual Trafficking in Persons Report 16 years ago, or in 2001. The Report ranks governments based on US perceptions of their efforts to acknowledge and combat this global scourge. A Tier 1 ranking means that the Philippines has made efforts to address the problem and fully complies with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of the United States. These standards include punishing severe forms of trafficking and making serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking.
“Over the years, the Philippines has remained steadfast in its campaign against human trafficking. Under the Aquino III Administration, the number of investigation and successful prosecution has substantially increased, with 209 of the 238 (or 88 percent) total number of convictions (as of May 31, 2016) since the Philippine Anti-Trafficking Law was passed in 2003. Government efforts in educating the public about trafficking-in-persons have been intensified in the last six years. Measures to identify and prevent the exit of trafficked persons out of the country have been put in place. Increased engagement with the international community has been demonstrated, with continued dialogues, greater cooperation in the area of sharing information, cooperation in investigating trafficking cases, and increased technical partnership in implementing anti-trafficking programs. Partnerships with local stakeholders have been increased, especially with non-government organizations, local governments and faith-based organizations.
“The DOLE, as a pioneer member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, has significantly contributed to preventing trafficking-in-persons and to punishing perpetrators by addressing recruitment malpractices, monitoring workplaces, and setting labor standards that prevent exploitation.
“Over the last six years, the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, has stepped up its efforts to address illegal recruitment and trafficking. It has achieved significant gains in law enforcement and prosecution, while it has introduced and implemented new and innovative programs to educate Filipinos on overseas employment; on how to avoid illegal recruitment and trafficking; and in promoting safe and legal labour migration.
“Through our Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS), we have reached 1,145,204 individuals and prospective migrant workers between 2011 and 2016, five times the number of participants reached between 2005 and 2010. The PEOS is now a mandatory requirement for first-time overseas job applicants. It is available through an online facility, with 527,174 unique visits and 117,635 registrants.
“Also in the last five years, the POEA has reached 17,505 participants in a total of 209 Anti-Illegal and Anti-Trafficking in Persons (AIRTIP) seminars conducted across the country. It has trained over 6,000 local government personnel and community leaders on overseas employment and illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons, over 300 percent increase from the actual number of participants between 2006 and 2010.
“The POEA has monitored over two million views of Twitter and Facebook advisories it has issued, reminding the public about illegal recruitment schemes and how to avoid them. It has also developed and aired public service announcements (PSAs) in several radio and TV stations, and has made available mobile application for agency verification, with 424,762 smart phone users downloading the app since its launch in March 2014.
“Since 2010, the DOLE, through the POEA and other agencies, has signed MOUs with more than 1,200 local government units and civil society organizations to address illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons, within the context of convergence of OFW services enshrined in DOLE Administrative Order No. 157. This number is twice the number of MOUs entered into between 2006 and 2010.
“Addressing recruitment malpractices and illegal recruitment in-country reduces the risks of trafficking, especially for those seeking overseas employment. From 2011 to 2015, the POEA received 763 illegal recruitment cases involving 1,538 victims. Compared to cases received between 2006-2010 at 1,862 cases (involving 3,986 victims), the number has dropped significantly by 59 percent in terms of cases and 61 percent in terms of the number of victims. The POEA has rendered various forms of legal assistance to victims, including representation during preliminary investigation and prosecution of cases. A total of 48 establishments were ordered closed for illegal recruitment activities.
“The POEA has also implemented a One-Stop OEC validation System through data sharing arrangements between POEA and the Bureau of Immigration. Through such partnership, workers with fraudulent documents and potential victims of trafficking have been identified and the investigation of their perpetrators followed.
“The DOLE has established its Assist WELL (Welfare, Employment, Livelihood and Legal Assistance) Program and set up processing centers at POEA, OWWA and NRCO and across the country in DOLE Regional Offices, as well as in select countries of OFW destinations. The program is a one-stop service hub for availing assistance by returning migrant workers, including victims of trafficking.
“The implementation of the Labor Laws Compliance System as an alternative to rigid regulatory, inspection mechanism facilitates compliance with labor standards, preventing deficits in labor standards compliance that fuel exploitation of workers.
“The Department has installed the Foreign Labor Operations Information System (FLOIS) in Philippine Overseas Labor Offices. The FLOIS is a central reporting application system that provides easy access to operations and reports of various POLOs. It enables the DOLE, OWWA, and POEA to immediately take appropriate measures to provide assistance to distressed workers including their repatriation.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and DOLE have developed a Joint Manual of Operations on Assistance to Nationals to ensure efficient and effective delivery of services to migrant workers. This establishes and delineates the distinct roles and responsibilities of these agencies toward improving significantly coordination and cooperation among agencies.
“In the next couple of months, the POEA will roll out the National Illegal Recruitment Case Monitoring System and the Trafficking Blacklist. The online case monitoring system will facilitate the tracking of illegal recruitment cases until their final resolution and the generation of valuable information and statistics for policy formulation and program development. The blacklist, on the other hand, will enable law enforcement entities and the public to know individuals and entities engaged in trafficking in persons.
“All these are seen to contribute immensely to sustaining our gains in preventing trafficking and protecting victims.
“The Philippines is acknowledged as a leader in global and regional discourse on trafficking-in-persons and in the protection of migrant workers. Our successful presentation of the Philippine report on the implementation of the United Nations Conventions on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families in March 2014 is a testament to the importance we give to our workers and their families. Our report has inspired other State Parties in implementing their own national measures within the standards of the Convention.
“In the Global Slavery Index produced by Walk Free Foundation, the Philippines retained its top spot in the 2016 edition of the Index, citing that the country is making strong efforts against human trafficking despite having relatively less resources than wealthier countries and earning acknowledgment as a regional leader in dealing with modern-day slavery. Overall, the Philippines is ranked as 1st in Asia, 3rd in Asia-Pacific, and 29th globally out of 167 states based on government responses, on the existence of necessary laws, victim support, and application of labor standards to vulnerable populations.
“The Philippines has likewise taken the lead in developing a regional instrument on trafficking in persons known as the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons which was adopted at the ASEAN Leaders Summit in November 2015 in Malaysia. This instrument paves the way for increased regional cooperation on investigating trafficking in persons and protection of victims. DOLE played a significant role in the drafting process of the ASEAN TIP Convention by chairing and participating in the Experts Working Group meetings.
“The placement of the Philippines in Tier 1 Ranking is certainly a feat to celebrate the country’s efforts in addressing trafficking in persons. Let us, however, remind ourselves that the work is not done. The threat of trafficking in persons remains, and therefore, we should not sit on our laurels. Let such feat be a continuing inspiration to do better and to minimize the risks of exploitation of our people, especially of the workers, whether here or abroad.”