Friday, January 25, 2008

New Halfway House for Trafficking Victims Built in the Philippines

From the Sun Star:

Zamboanga, Philippines - A Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) halfway house, a shelter that serves as a sanctuary for victims of human trafficking, is set to be operational in February.

PPA information officer Karen Kay Rivero said that a team from the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) will manage the halfway house.

The halfway house, or Bahay Silungan sa Daungan as it's known in Filipino, is a facility that will serve as a temporary shelter for women and children who are victims or potential targets of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

As a top priority program of PPA's Gender and Development Focal Point arm, the halfway house under the supervision of VFF provides services such as counseling, legal assistance, skills training, medical and other psychosocial assistance.

The halfway house will also have a hotline where human trafficking victims can call for assistance, according to Rivero.

The PPA, as part of its corporate social responsibility, has been working on the Bahay Silungan sa Daungan project since 1996, prompted by the numerous cases of stranded passengers in ports who have become victims of exploitation.

Other major ports in the country such as Manila's North and South Harbors, and the ports in Davao, Batangas, and in Matnog, Sorsogon have had halfway houses established.

Dizon emphasizes the inspiring fact that PPA's anti-trafficking program greatly aids countless women and minors. In the last six years, PPA halfway houses across the country saved 18,600 victims and potential targets of trafficking.

Rivero said the PPA financed the construction of halfway houses culled from its corporate funds, while its partner agency, the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID), finances its management and operation.

Afternoon Update:

*I worked closely with the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) during my Fulbright research in the Philippines and was always impressed with their collaborative, inclusive and innovative approach to combating trafficking.

The reality of combating trafficking is often messy: the government, law enforcement, and criminal justice system all have the potential to be corrupt, uninformed, or lack the motivation/pressure from the public, the media, or the international spotlight to make any real impact. There are certainly many skilled, well-intentioned individuals working within bogged-down government and law enforcement agencies (and also non-governmental organizations of course) that do want to make a difference, but may not know how or have the resources to do so on their own.

But the situation is far from being all fire and brimstone.

VFF created the halfway houses to intercept trafficking victims en route to exploitation and, through forging cross-sector partnerships, is making a sizable difference- the article states that halfway houses in sea ports across the Philippines have rescued 18,600 potential trafficking victims in six years of operation.

Trafficking is not a simple issue- it is a problem created by a complex stew of social, cultural, economic and political factors and, as would fit the chemistry of the problem, there is no one person or organization or economic sector that can handle trafficking on its own.

It is by learning about the collaborative relationships that VFF has developed with stakeholders like the Philippine Police, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Philippine Port Authority and private shipping companies (that’s the public, private, and citizen sector working together for those keeping track) that I saw true hope in an otherwise murky situation.

No comments:

Post a Comment