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US to PH: Punish officials linked to human trafficking

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines should step up efforts to crack down on government officials involved in human trafficking, and provide more resources to help victims of modern-day slavery, the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said.

The report, released annually by the US State Department since 2001, has again placed the Philippines at Tier 2 of its 3-tier ranking system, citing continued efforts in fighting human trafficking.

As with previous editions, the 2015 TIP said the Philippines "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so."

The report said that "public officials, including those in diplomatic missions abroad, law enforcement agencies, and other government entities, are reported to be complicit in trafficking or allow traffickers to operate with impunity."

"Forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women, and children within the country remains a significant problem," it said. It cited a range of vulnerable groups, including disaster victims, internally displaced persons, sex workers, forced agricultural laborers, and those in conflict areas.

For this year, the report cited the following highlights in the Philippines' fight against human trafficking:

Despite these moves, the report said the government failed in these aspects:

To counter these issues, the TIP recommended that the Philippine government should step up efforts to punish officials linked to human trafficking

It said the country also needs to boost its support system for victims by adding more protection services "that address the specific needs of trafficking victims, with a particular focus on male victims."

There is also a need to "develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts."

5 years under Tier 2

This is the 5th year the Philippines has been placed under the Tier 2. In 2010, it was placed under the Tier 2 Watchlist, a notch lower than Tier 2.

The Tiers on the TIP report are based on the following:

In his message during the launch of this year's report, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the report "places a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace."

"It highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains," he said.

"The bottom line is that this is no time for complacency. Right now, across the globe, victims of human trafficking are daring to imagine the possibility of escape, the chance for a life without fear, and the opportunity to earn a living wage," Kerry added.

According to the International Labor Organization, trafficking in persons represents a $150 billion-a-year industry, including $99 billion for the sex industry alone.

Washington estimates some 20 million people are victims.

"Trafficking in persons is an insult to human dignity and an assault on freedom," Kerry said in the report's introduction as he called for a comprehensive "fight against modern slavery."

In remarks Monday he declared, "It's a battle against money, it's a battle against evil."  With a report from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com