PH, US intensify post-Haiyan anti-trafficking effort

MANILA, Philippines – United States (US) Ambassador Philip Goldberg said an anti-human trafficking crusade is a "key part" in the US' diplomatic efforts with the Philippines.

Goldberg delivered this message Monday, October 20, during the launch of a US-funded, two-year program aimed at combatting human trafficking in Haiyan-hit areas. 

He added that "beyond the financial aspect," the US involves itself in the prevention of the illegal trade. 

“This is a global problem that requires global and local solutions and response,” he said of the smuggling of human persons for forced labor and/or sexual exploitation.

The project launch was held at the Patio Victoria in Tacloban City, the city hardest hit by 2013's most powerful tropical cyclone Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda). (CLICK: Yolanda/Haiyan)

The program, initiated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was the subject of praise by government officials for its "victim-centered approach" and focus on those "vulnerable to exploitation."

Typhoon Haiyan unleashed its fury in Eastern Visayas last November 8, 2013, washing away homes, causing deaths in the thousands, and leaving the rest scouring for food and shelter to survive.

The devastation of key Visayas cities such as Tacloban and Ormoc was made worse by subsequent reports of women and children falling prey in the hands of human traffickers.

PH execs laud IOM project

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Siegfed B. Mison, and Commission on Filipino Overseas Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas all lauded the IOM's anti-trafficking efforts in places affected by Haiyan.

Soliman, Mison, and Nicolas promised full cooperation of their respective government agencies to the IOM, a 156-strong inter-governmental body.

Soliman regarded "circumstances of survival" post-Haiyan as a risk factor, making people "more vulnerable to exploitation."

Victims of the catastrophic typhoon can be "easily lured to false promises by those who capitalize on their helplessness," she said.

Mison likewise noted the difficulty of tracing human trafficking syndicates, highlighting the need for comprehensive inter-agency measures.

"Almost a year has passed since the tragedy, but our affected brothers and sisters continue to struggle to go back to their usual lives," he added.

Nicolas also said the "pro-active efforts" the IOM exerted as counter measures against human trafficking are well-appreciated by her commission, noting the IOM's awareness-raising objective as a key component of its program.

Key implementors

The IOM program – which runs until September 2016 – promises to equip workers to identify and assist trafficking victims, provide greater access for the referral of these victims to concerned agencies, and directly assist them through the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Emergency Support Fund. 

The IOM, whose Philippine office was established back in 1975, is involved in finding solutions to migration and other related problems across the globe.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Marco Boasso were also present during the Monday launch.

The IOM program is in cooperation with the Philippine government's Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and the US State Department.

The IACAT is an inter-agency council of the government composed of the Department of Justice, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Philippine Commission For Women, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Immigration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. – Rappler.com