PH efforts vs modern slavery best in Asia – report
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines ranked first among Asian countries in terms of government response to modern servitude, including human trafficking, forced labor, and slavery, with an above-average rating in the entire Asia Pacific region.
The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) was prepared by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based international organization aimed at ending modern slavery by generating high-quality research and promoting private-public sector coordination.
The first of its kind, the 2014 GSI measures government response as well as vulnerability to modern slavery in addition to its prevalence.
The Philippines is among 4 countries "taking strong efforts to respond to modern slavery with relatively limited resources," the report read.
Specifically, in terms of government response, the country is first in Asia, 3rd in the Asia Pacific, and 29th globally, out of 167 countries.
Among efforts to curb modern slavery are: short-term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.
However, the report estimated over 260,000 Filipinos or 0.2655% of the population were enslaved as of 2014.
Walk Free Foundation recommends that government immediately enact into law a draft bill called Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict Act of 2011 and that the business sector identify any forced labor in their supply chains
Other concerns raised in Walk Free's country brief were the trafficking of Filipino women in the guise of legitimate marital unions, of young Filipino boxers with sporting visas for forced labor, and the use of children as informants and guides in the anti-insurgency war, among others.
Local industries considered to have a propensity to modern slavery are the tobacco and sugar cane industries. Families in regions that grow tobacco often allow their children to work with them to harvest raw material and package the product for export, read the country brief.
"Children as young as 12 years old were identified in the sector, with many working more than 43 hours per week, exposing them to dangerous levels of nicotine, and other hazardous farming chemicals," it read further.
Walk Free recommended that government immediately enact into law a draft bill called Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict Act of 2011 and that the business sector identify any forced labor in their supply chains.
The country's vulnerability to modern slavery was also attributed to its proneness to typhoons, its "limited employment opportunities" and "steep wealth disparities" that drive workers abroad, and "systemic corruption evident" at all levels of government.
Gov't welcomes report
Still, as chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima welcomed the report.
De Lima lauded government agencies whose collective effort gained a high ranking in the index.
“The report is something that every Filipino must be proud of and should serve as inspiration to the ‘frontliners’ from the different government agencies to persevere and further improve,” she said.
Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar attributed what he considered a milestone to various sectors involved in the fight against human trafficking, including public servants, government organizations, local government units, NGO partners, and faith-based organizations. – Rappler.com