The Philippines has once again retained the highest classification (Tier 1 status) for the sixth consecutive year in the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released by the United States Department of State. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the release in a virtual event held last July 1 wherein the anti-trafficking efforts of 188 governments, including the United States was assessed. Countries assessed as fully meeting the standards for the elimination of trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) are placed on Tier 1.

The TIP Report states that the Government of the Philippines fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and continues to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, even during the onset of the global pandemic. It highlighted that during the reporting period, the Philippines prosecuted more traffickers than the previous reporting period, including significantly more defendants charged with using child soldiers and sentencing the majority of convicted traffickers to significant terms of imprisonment. It also highlighted the Philippine government’s efforts on improving prosecutions by increasing the number of prosecutors assigned to anti-trafficking task forces as well as providing more protection to victims by opening a specialized shelter and one-stop service center in Manila.

Justice Secretary and IACAT Chairperson Menardo I. Guevarra thanked and commended the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for the collective efforts of its partners and stakeholders who relentlessly rendered their services for the country in order to prevent, protect and prosecute trafficking in persons cases.

The TIP Report likewise provides priority recommendations for the Philippine government to further improve its counter-trafficking response, such as strengthening the capacity of local government units to provide reintegration services for trafficking survivors, including trauma-informed care, job training, and in-country employment. While retaining the Tier 1 status is a major accomplishment for the Philippine government, Sec. Guevarra said that the Philippines cannot afford to be complacent and assures that the recommendations provided shall be addressed.

“We continue to aspire in improving our responses and recalibrating our efforts to address the recommendations proposed in the 2021 US TIP Report, starting with the promising amendments to legislation in order to address the current gaps. IACAT will likewise be further strengthened as an institution by increasing the capacities of our personnel in order to serve the public better,” Guevarra said.

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Usec-in-charge of IACAT, also extends her acknowledgments to the US State Department for their continued support and cooperation under one advocacy, and to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for ensuring that the anti-trafficking response remains a top priority through the issuance of his marching orders to intensify the war against human traffickers and illegal recruiters that prey on Filipino migrants. Usec. Aglipay-Villar calls for the participation of everyone because a whole-of-nation approach is needed to eradicate all forms of modern-day slavery.

“We continue to enhance and strengthen mutual coordination, collaboration, and cross-border relationship with other jurisdictions. We must educate the public on issues of concern and mobilize political will and resources to mitigate the impending risks and to further explore issues of particular relevance in the current forms of human trafficking, especially on child trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children. We shall not rest until all victims of trafficking are provided justice and given back their rightful dignity and humanity,” said Usec. Aglipay-Villar.