Manila: The campaign against human trafficking in the Philippines has remained strong with government support and the involvement of more non-government groups, despite a setback with the investigation of a 22 year-old internationally recognised Philippine-based anti-human trafficking group for alleged misuse of funds by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), sources said.
“Every problem has a solution. We are the solution. Our common desire to give to the succeeding generations a country free from any taint of human trafficking is the real solution,” said Vice-President Jejomar Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking (IACAT) in describing her country’s strong campaign against the social scourge.
Identifying a major cause of human trafficking, Binay said: “Poverty, ignorance, and crime provide the mix that breeds the modern plague. So long as these three things exist, the problem (of human trafficking) will remain (in the Philippines).”
Although the Philippines was removed from Tier 2 Watchlist in the report of the Global Trafficking in 2012, the Philippines remains a source, destination and transit country of human trafficking, Binay warned.
“Men, women and children continue to be subjected to forced labour in factories, construction sites, fishing vessels, agricultural plantations, mines, quarries, and private homes, where many trafficked women and girls suffer sexual abuse, rape and physical violence,” he added.
If the Philippines land in the Tier 3 Watch List, it would mean the withholding of US non-humanitarian assistance amounting to $250 million (Dh875 million) to the country’s campaign.
Without Binay giving details of poverty alleviation meant to stop human trafficking, recent developments have also shown that the campaign against human trafficking has remained strong.
In 2010, world boxing champion, congressman Manny Pacquiao joined the crusade against human trafficking.
He called for strong legislation and a “budget allocation for an all-out war against human trafficking”.
“I sympathise with the victims of human trafficking (that target overseas Filipino workers or OFWs). Somehow, I am also an OFW because I train and earn money abroad,” he explained.
At the same time, other non-government organisations now engaged in anti human trafficking campaign include the Association of Child Caring Agencies in the Philippines, the Blas Ople Policy Centre, and the Philippine Centre for Islam and Democracy.
Despite their growing number, non-government organisations have been encountering “alarming levels” of human trafficking cases, revealed Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Policy Centre.
Even the beleaguered 22 year-old Visayan Forum has continued its campaign against human trafficking despite the investigation of its head, Cecilia Flores-Oebanda for alleged misuse of P210 million (Dh17.5 million) of funds from the USAID.
CNN quoted the National Bureau of Investigation as saying that Visayan had assisted 644 ghost beneficiaries in Sorsogon, in southern Luzon from April 2005 to March 2006; listed 30 employees without employment record; instructed social workers to double project costs and return half of it to Visayan, and made cash advances of $51,405.71
She denied the charges and cases were not yet filed against her. In reaction to USAID’s abrupt withdrawal of funds, after six years of partnership, Oebanda told CNN: “Every day that we are upset in the field, every day that we are not in the port, we are losing children. We are losing women to the traffickers and we don’t know what happened to them and that makes me really so mad.”
Despite Visayan’s projected inactivity in the campaign, USAID’s mission director in the Philippines, told the CNN with hope, “When there is a vacuum, it will always be filled. I think that’s the law of nature and a lot of groups are coming and providing the assistance that’s needed (in the Philippine campaign).”