Sunday, August 10, 2008

Philippines: Government Steps Up Anti-Trafficking Campaign



The Manila Times:

By Anthony A. Vargas

August 10,2008


The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will strengthen local and international efforts in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking in all forms, following the release of a report from a non-government organization indicating an increase in human trafficking activities in the Philippines.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque, also chair of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Board, made this assurance as he bared that the government has consolidated all its resources and focal agencies into one Task Force to directly address the problem of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Roque said through Executive Order (EO) 548-A issued recently by President Gloria Arroyo, the role of the POEA, an attached agency of the DOLE, was defined and strengthened by R.A 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

EO 548-A amended and superseded a previous EO and created a task force against illegal recruitment under the supervision of the Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO), that is also in charge of the Task Force Against Human Trafficking (TFHT) as provided for by EO 548-A.

”This [EO 548-A] shall enable the POEA in coordination with the regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure greater focus in fighting illegal recruiters down to the local level,” he said.

Roque said that the executive order underscored the on-going campaign of POEA to involve local government units (LGUs) in the fight against illegal recruiters.

He said that the agency has forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila late last year, particularly with the city governments of Taguig, Valen­zuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Quezon City.

The agreements, he said, called for the active participation of the concerned local government units LGUs in the surveillance and investigation of establishments and entities suspected of illegal recruitment acts in their respective jurisdiction.

The labor chief said that POEA is set to forge similar agreements with other LGUs in Metro Manila and other regions this year, in line with Executive Order No. 548-A and RA 8042.

As TFHT chair, the CFO shall recommend to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) policies, programs, and services aimed at eliminating trafficking in persons. The IACAT is the primary body tasked to coordinate, monitor and oversee the implementation of programs against trafficking in persons as provided for by RA No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

“We always believe that the best way to prevent or minimize illegal recruitment or human trafficking is for would be overseas workers to check and verify first with the authorities, particularly with POEA, any offer of overseas job by individuals or entities engaged in overseas employment before dealing with them,” Roque said.

The Labor secretary added that among the safety nets and measures established by the DOLE to mitigate if not totally eradicate or prevent illegal recruitment and human trafficking is the conduct of Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars, the establishment of Public Employment Service Offices in cities and municipalities nationwide to assist workers seeking local or overseas employment; and building linkages with various agencies of government charged with migration and travel.

Overseas, Roque said the 34 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of the DOLE established worldwide help trace, shelter, assist and repatriate victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking. Aside from DOLE’s initiatives, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has installed cellular phones signal jammers as added security measure and to strengthen measures against human trafficking and irregular facilitation and escort of passenger at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s premiere international gateway.

BI Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said that 12 units of cellular phone signal jammers and dampers will be installed at the NAIA’s arrival and departure area of the premier airport. The cellphone jammers are only going to block signals near the immigration area. Some BI personnel allegedly used cell phones to communicate with persons involved in human trafficking and irregular facilitation and escort of passengers. Libanan said that he had endorsed the purchase and installation of said electronic equipment to strengthen the ban on immigration personnel from using cell phones while still on duty at the NAIA. “Apparently, there were still other immigration officers disregarding the rule,” Libanan said in a statement issued on Monday.

The Immigration commissioner said that there’s a need to strictly implement the cell phone ban at the NAIA to strengthen the bureau’s drive against human trafficking and it also prevents corruption. The installation of cell phone jammers and dampers were proposed by NAIA-BI Operations chief, Ferdinand Sampol who said that cell phone use by immigration personnel leaves a bad impression to the public. ”It gives the public the impression that they are the contact persons of those seeking irregular facilitation,” Sampol said in the same statement.

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