MANILA, Philippines – Despite having fewer resources, the Philippines is among several countries exerting strong efforts to fight the problem of modern slavery, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.
In the report prepared by Australia-based organization Walk Free Foundation, the Philippine government’s response to the problem merited a rating of BB, the 5th highest rating.
This rating recognizes that the government has introduced a response to the problem, including short-term victim support services, protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery, and the declaration of some forms of modern slavery being illegal.
Modern slavery refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception.
According to the report, an estimated 45.8 million people are trapped in modern slavery, with 2/3 of them in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines currently ranks 13th in the region in terms of prevalence, and 33rd out of 167 countries globally.
In the Philippines, the most prevalent forms of modern slavery include forced labor, especially for Filipinos working abroad; commercial sexual exploitation; and the use of child soldiers. The report also noted the forced labor and exploitation of fishermen engaged in Pa-aling fishing, a dangerous technique in which fishermen dive down into reefs of up to 100 feet, while breathing through a long tube connected to compressed air.
Despite these problems, the report said the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand have had the strongest responses against modern slavery in the Asia-Pacific region.
“These countries have reasonably strong victim support services, specialized law enforcement units, effective and measurable [National Action Plans], and laws, policies and programs that address cycles of vulnerability,” the report said.
The Philippines remains a regional leader in its response to fight modern slavery, particularly when it comes to protecting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The report noted the country’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which coordinates with all relevant government agencies to protect Filipinos against various forms of modern slavery.
To protect its overseas labor force, the Philippines has also implemented a wide range of mechanisms, including setting up assistance resource centers in various countries, and requiring pre-deployment verification of employment contracts for prospective OFWs, among others.
The report also commended the victim recovery and reintegration programs initiated by non-governmental organizations in the Philippines. These programs, which allow survivors to develop vocational skills and get medical and legal support, empower victims and allow them to break the cycle of slavery.
To further strengthen safeguards against exploitation, Walk Free Foundation said the Philippines should act to contain the factors that make Filipinos more vulnerable to slavery. It noted that the country’s vulnerability to typhoons and natural disasters, as well as the persistent problem of corruption, make Filipinos more vulnerable to human trafficking. – Rappler.com
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