PHL maintains Tier 1 status in latest US anti-trafficking report

The United States retained Philippines’ Tier 1 status, fully meeting US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

The US State Department said “while Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem or that it is doing enough to address the problem. Rather, a Tier 1 ranking indicates that a government has made efforts to address the problem that meet the TVPA’s minimum standards.”

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the US State Department said in the report.

“These efforts included improving the coordination of services for returning Filipino migrant workers who were victims of trafficking overseas; convicting and punishing traffickers, including an official complicit in sex trafficking and labor traffickers; increasing assistance to survivors who provide testimony; and increasing the use of prosecution procedures that reduce the potential for further harm to trafficking victims,” it added.

However, US State Department said “although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes, consistently criminally prosecute fraudulent recruiters and other labor traffickers, or increase support for specialized protection and assistance services for child victims of cyber-facilitated sex trafficking.”

“Community reintegration services, including trauma informed care, employment training, and job placement for survivors also remained inadequate,” it added.

Philippines’ prevention efforts were highlighted in the report. “The IACAT, the lead coordinating body responsible for overseeing and monitoring implementation of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and which the secretaries of DOJ and DSWD chaired and co-chaired respectively, convened four regular and two specialtopic meetings during the reporting period to share information and coordinate policies,” it added.

“Three NGOs participated as members of the IACAT, which also involved additional NGOs, private sector representatives, and survivors in technical working groups and other fora. The government increased the IACAT Secretariat’s budget to 92.9 million pesos ($1.83 million) from 80.39 million pesos ($1.59 million) in 2018,” says in the report.

Recommendations were also made, including: Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict complicit officials and labor traffickers. Strengthen the capacity of local government units to provide reintegration services for trafficking survivors, including trauma-informed care, job training, and in country employment. Establish and implement a process to ensure systematic and ongoing input from a diverse community of survivors on the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of anti-trafficking policies and programs. Provide increased support to government and NGO programs that provide specialized care for child victims of online sexual exploitation. Increase resources for anti-trafficking task forces to conduct timely investigations, coordinated operations, and prosecutions while providing robust victim and witness assistance services. Increase efforts to identify and assist child labor trafficking victims. Provide increased resources for law enforcement units designated to investigate online child sexual exploitation and other cyber-facilitated trafficking crimes. Consistently implement the coordinated interagency response to providing services to returning Filipinos who experienced sex and labor trafficking overseas. Create a central database for information on illegal recruiters and human trafficking cases to facilitate interagency coordination in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting traffickers.