US envoy lauds Celso, city for anti-trafficking efforts PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 March 2011 15:30

American Ambassador Harry Thomas has expressed admiration to city government under Mayor Celso Lobregat for its firm stance against human trafficking citing its record as the first city in the country to convict a human trafficker. 

“I am delighted to be here in Asia’s Latin City. I am even more impressed to hear that Zamboanga has the distinction of being the first city in the Philippines to convict a human trafficker under the Anti-Trafficking Law and to have five trafficking convictions and the first city to convict a human trafficker on forced labor.  Congratulations, Zamboanga!”, the ambassador said in his message during signing ceremonies of the Memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the operations manual of the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF) Monday at the port area.
He said he is grateful to the men and women who have worked to achieve the convictions including the brave survivors who testified against their oppressors.

“This is a global problem and I am so pleased—the USAID, our Embassy, Mayor Lobregat is a major fighter against this.  And we know the men and women of the judicial system and the police will make this happen,” he said.

Citing records, the ambassador said an estimated 12.3 million people is trafficked worldwide. “It is human violation that traps vulnerable men, women and children ending in forced labor and even forced prostitution.

He said strong partnerships would be critical in winning the battle against human trafficking as he emphasized in tagalong “Tama na, Sobra na, Labanan nating lahat ang Human Trafficking.”
“Today, we witness the strength of what the collective efforts and commitments of the Philippine government and civil society organizations can accomplish with united in the fight against trafficking,” he said.

He stressed the city’s inter-agency efforts have been proven critical to increasing prosecutions. “The battle against human trafficking is personal priority of the US Embassy.  We truly believe that we have the moral imperative to stand up against those who seek to profit from the poor, the vulnerable.  I am pleased to say the US government has long supported and will continue to support the Philippine government and local NGOs to combat this problem”.

Ambassador Thomas said the powerful combination of committed government leaders, the hardwork of government officials, the support of the Philippine Ports Authority, the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) and the other agencies concerned is protecting countless lives and helping stop trafficking before it starts.

The government of the United States will continue to support the governmnet and its partner agencies and NGOs in the fight against human trafficking, he said. He admitted that the county faces the challenges of showing progress in prosecutions and convictions of human traffickers but stressed that the “ultimate responsibility for eradicating this exploitative practice rest with the people”. 

“But I have no doubt your partnerships and efforts will lead to more effective interventions against human trafficking,” he added.

Thomas was in the city March 21 for a series of activities in Zamboanga, Sulu and Basilan. He was welcomed by Mayor Lobregat upon arrival at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Sta. Maria Monday morning and joined the mayor during the MOA signing event at the PPA-Visayan Forum halfway house in the afternoon.

At night time, Lobregat led city government officials in hosting a welcome dinner for Ambassador Thomas and other US officials and guests at the La Vista del Mar in Upper Calarian. —Sheila Covarrubias