Sunday, May 18, 2008

US Sees Progress in Curbing Trafficking of Filipinos

By Cynthia Balana

From the Inquirer:

The US State Department has acknowledged the overall progress being made by the Philippines in curbing human trafficking, the Philippine embassy in Singapore said on Wednesday.

Philippine Ambassador Belen Fule-Anota said that Ambassador Steven E. Steiner of the US Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons made this statement when he met with officials of the Philippine Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking who came to investigate the alarming increase in the trafficking of Filipinos in the city-state.

In that meeting, Anota proposed to improve inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the areas of rehabilitation, re-integration and witness protection for the victims, and the prosecution of traffickers.

Steiner, who visited the embassy on the sidelines of a meeting in Singapore, took note of the ongoing bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and the US. Embassy officials exchanged notes with him and discussed possible areas for strengthening bilateral cooperation.

In a report submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) early this year, the embassy cited an alarming increase in human trafficking cases from 125 in 2006 to 212 in 2007, a surge of 70 percent. There were only 59 recorded cases in 2005.

Of the 212 human trafficking victims in 2007, 57 or 27 percent admitted to either having engaged in prostitution or were coerced by their Filipino and Singaporean handlers to prostitute themselves. Of the 57 victims, 39 were pub workers, 15 worked in the escort service, while three were pick-up girls.

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