MANILA – The United States has retained Manila’s Tier 1 status in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, the highest classification, for the fifth year in a row.

The State Department recognized Manila’s assistance to a total of 6,772 potential human trafficking victims and around 1,143 Filipino trafficking survivors from the Middle East and Asia.

Among others, it lauded the country’s efforts to convict and punish traffickers and the increased use of prosecution procedures reducing further harm to the victims.

“The Philippines fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the 2020 TIP report read.

The Philippines moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1 in 2016 and retained the status for five consecutive years. Although it meets minimum standards, the report said the country’s community reintegration services remain inadequate.

It also noted that Manila “did not vigorously investigate and prosecute” officials allegedly involved in TIP crimes nor increase support for specialized protection for child victims of cyber-facilitated sex trafficking.

In its recommendation, Washington said the country should increase its efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict complicit officials and labor traffickers as well as strengthen the capacity of local government units in providing reintegration programs for the survivors.

The State Department also recommended the following:

• Establishment of a process to get inputs from a diverse community of survivors that could help in anti-trafficking policies and programs.

• Boost support to government and non-government organization programs that provide specialized care for child victims of online sexual exploitation.

• Increase resources for anti-trafficking task forces for timely investigations, coordinated operations, and prosecutions.

• Aggressively identify and assist child labor trafficking victims

• Consistently carry out coordinated interagency response for returning Filipinos who experienced sex and labor trafficking overseas.

• Create a central database for information on illegal recruiters and human trafficking cases to facilitate interagency coordination in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting traffickers.

In a statement, the Philippine embassy in Washington DC said Manila’s retention at Tier 1 status underlines the country’s seriousness in combating all forms of human trafficking.

“We remain fully committed to working with domestic and international partners, including the US, in addressing this global concern. In this context, the Philippines shall continue to engage with both labor-sending but more importantly labor-receiving countries in promoting the welfare and protecting the rights of migrant workers everywhere,” it said. (ia/PNA)

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