PHILIPPINES JOINS AUSTRALIA IN THE REGIONAL FIGHT AGAINST PEOPLE TRAFFICKING
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno today launched the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP) Project in the Philippines which aims to strengthen the capability of the Philippine criminal justice system to combat people trafficking.
Ambassador Smith said the ARTIP would provide training programs to strengthen the capacities of Philippine law enforcement agencies, particularly the Philippine National Police, judges and prosecutors on prevention, detection and investigation, prosecution and support for victims of people trafficking.
“People trafficking remains a significant global concern with thousands of men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year for a wide range of exploitative purposes including sexual exploitation, forced labour, illicit adoption, street begging and the harvesting of body organs,” Ambassador Smith said.
“Trafficking in persons is a serious violation of human rights and the Australian Government is committed to combating this crime and providing victims with appropriate humanitarian support. Today’s launch of the ARTIP in the Philippines reconfirms the Australian and Philippine Governments’ commitment to combat this problem.”
The ARTIP Project is a five-year A$21 million (Php 800 million) initiative by the Australian Government which aims to facilitate a more effective and coordinated criminal justice response to trafficking in persons by South East Asia governments. ARTIP partner countries include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and now the Philippines. ARTIP collaborates closely with the ASEAN Secretariat and the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on the Transnational Crimes Working Group on Trafficking in Persons, currently chaired by the Philippines. A technical working group will be set up in the Philippines to implement ARTIP.
“There can be no doubt that an effective criminal justice response to trafficking is an important factor in ending impunity for traffickers and securing justice for victims,” Ambassador Smith said.
“Australia is working collaboratively with other countries through forums such as the Bali Process, which brings participants together to work on practical measures to help combat people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crimes in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. We work closely with partner countries in supporting development projects, including in the Philippines, to strengthen capacity to address people trafficking.”
DILG Secretary Puno said that “the highly complex problem of trafficking in persons requires a multi-pronged and holistic approach. The ARTIP Project will help strengthen the five pillars of the country’s criminal justice system, especially relative to law enforcement and prosecution.” Secretary Puno welcomed the participation and support of interested sectors with respect to the undertakings of the Philippine Technical Working Group that ARTIP will establish in the Philippines and will be headed by the DILG.
Senior officials from the Philippine Department of Justice, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Philippine National Police also attended the launch.
Australia is a long-standing development partner of the Philippines and one of the country’s largest bilateral grant aid donors. In FY 2009–10, the Australian Government will provide an estimated Php4.6 billion (A$123 million) in development assistance, focusing on economic growth, basic education, and national stability and human security.