Sunday, July 17, 2011

DSWD MIMAROPA calls for vigilance against Trafficking in Persons

The illegal trade of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation or forced labour continues to grace the news, but recently the Philippines was removed from the U.S. human trafficking watchlist.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement that cited the Philippines’ improved efforts in battling human trafficking. Together with Singapore and Laos, the Philippines was elevated off the watchlist to Tier 2, which really means that these countries do not fully meet standards on human trafficking but are making efforts to do so.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), MIMAROPA Regional Office has stated in a report that in 2010 there were less than 10 cases of trafficking in persons they have served. This rather small number, however, does not necessarily reflect the actual number of trafficking cases in the region that covers the island-provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

It may be mentioned that Puerto Galera, one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations located in Oriental Mindoro was included in the top 5 with the most cases of child trafficking in the country. This, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). The list includes Metro Manila, Davao, Angeles City and Cebu.

Even the Mimaropa regional office of DSWD believes that the number of cases in the region are only those reported to their office and that a bigger number of cases are not being brought to the attention of the agency. In Marinduque, for example, it appears that there are no human trafficking cases reported.

As a crucial step, the Department is urging civil society to become more pro-active in reporting incidents to the DSWD or local police, of suspicious circumstances involving illegal human trafficking – especially instances involving children.

Along this line, the Department is also conducting a series of seminars for social workers to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge in dealing with incidents of trafficking in the region. Such a seminar was recently held in Bayview Park Hotel in Manila from June 22-23. The seminar had social workers from the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office (PSWDO), Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO), and the regional DSWD Social Welfare and Development Team (SWADT).

Illegal human trafficking is a practice borne out of the ignorance and lack of education of the victims. Even with the passage of the Magna Carta of Women highlighting that the equality of men and women entails the abolition of the unequal structures and practices that perpetuate discrimination and inequality, only a heightened awareness of what these structures and practices are and appropriate application of the law for wrongdoers could serve its purpose. There are also laws against child trafficking and pornography that may be considered meaningless if no one reports incidents of child exploitation to the authorities.

For these reasons, the DSWD with the cooperation of local governments and agencies is now calling for renewed vigilance in the fight against trafficking in persons, hoping that it will eventually be championed by everyone.

Some data supplied by DSWD Mimaropa.