MANILA, Philippines - The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons concluded her 5-day visit to the Philippines and released a preliminary report on her fact-finding mission on Friday.
Joy Ngozi Ezeilo said human trafficking in the Philippines is still a growing problem. She urged the Philippine government to strengthen implementation of measures to combat trafficking in persons, while promoting safe migration for development.
The UN Special Rapporteur said she saw strong government commitment in combating human trafficking, especially with the ratification of several key protocols and conventions, including the Palermo protocols adopted by the United Nations in 2000.
Ezeilo also welcomed the peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. She said this will be a factor in reducing human trafficking as many of the victims are those displaced by conflict.
However, she also noted several key challenges in addressing the problem of trafficking in persons.
For one, Ezeilo said there needs to be standardization of data collection, since information available is currently confusing and occasionally conflicting. She also noted there is under-reporting of internal human trafficking cases.
There also seems to be a lack of awareness of some government officials of the problem, especially on Labor Trafficking. Ezeilo said that there have only been 2 convictions related to the phenomenon.
She also said that enforcement of laws and assistance to victims is not uniform, and depends on the political will of local officials.
But more importantly, the root causes of trafficking are not being effectively addressed, particularly poverty, lack of opportunity, and gender discrimination.
Ezeilo recommended an in-depth research on the subject and the development of tools and capacities for data collection.
She also pushed for a widespread information campaign on the issue and training of police, the judiciary, inspectors, immigration officials and others to deal with human trafficking.
The bottomline however is combating inequality, poverty, discrimination, and prejudice. Ezeilo said government should aggressively pursue alternatives for livelihood to reduce potential victims of human trafficking.
The full report of the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons will be presented to the UN human rights council in June 2013.