MANILA — Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday asked the government to forge a cooperation pact with Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to fight human trafficking, stressing the need for harmonized action between the two countries to tackle the said crime.
“I urge our government through the Department of Foreign Affairs to enter into a mutual cooperation agreement with Malaysia to intensify initiatives against human trafficking facilitated by syndicates between these two neighboring countries,” Gatchalian, who is also a vice chair in the House committee on tourism said in an interview.
“I believe greater action against human trafficking can be achieved if we do it collectively. This means we, the people’s representatives, have to act hand-in-hand not only with other state agencies but with the Malaysian government as well,” he added.
There were 1,376 trafficking victims nationwide recorded in 2012 and 645 in the first half of last year.
As of Apr. 1, 144 persons have been convicted of violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Acts of 2003, according to data from the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT). Of the total figure, 114 were sentenced during the present administration.
According to the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, the trafficking route, taken by air or by sea, starts at Zamboanga then stops at either Taganac Island or Bongao in Tawi-Tawi before going to Sandakan in Malaysia. An alternative route uses Palawan as a mid-way point between Manila and Kudat in Malaysia. Other jumping points to Malaysia are Basilan and Sulu.
The Valenzuela solon also asked the Congress to increase the allocation for IACAT and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) “so they can increase efforts in patrolling our ports and seawaters.”
The IACAT, although composed of several government bodies, sources its funds from the Department of Justice while the PCG is under the Department of Transportation and Communications.
He also pressed on airport authorities to purge immigration officers who allow traffickers to operate, saying: “Our government has to do all that is necessary to put an end to human trafficking.”
President Benigno Aquino III also signed last year Republic Act No. 10364, which expanded the anti-trafficking law.
According to the US Department of State, Filipino women are “subjected to sex trafficking” not only in Malaysia but in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Syria.
The same agency placed the Philippines in Tier 2 of its 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, saying the country “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”
Malaysia, on the other hand, is in the Tier 2 Watch List, meaning it “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”