Lobregat lauds MOA signing on anti-trafficking task force PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 March 2011 14:16

Mayor Celso Lobregat commended yesterday afternoon the signing of a memorandum of agreement on Zamboanga City Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force with no less than US Ambassador Harry Thomas as the keynote speaker.

“The signing of this accord comes at an auspicious time as our country and Zamboanga City put renewed emphasis on the need for all agencies and sectors to unite and collaborate to achieve a common, that is to stop human trafficking,” Mayor Lobregat said in his welcome remarks during the signing rites at the halfway house of port area.

The halfway house dubbed as the “Bahay Silungan sa Daungan” was inaugurated in January 2008 by then US Ambassador Kristie Kenney. It was built by the Philippine Ports Authority and is managed by the Visayan Forum Foundation. The facility serves as a temporary shelter where proper protection and eventual rehabilitation are provided to trafficking victims.

Last March 15, Lobregat was part of a grand event, “Commitment Day against Human Trafficking, in Manila spearheaded by the Visayan Forum and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Part of the activities as a forum on Innovations on Local Governance where he had the honor of sharing the stage with Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

“It was truly an honor as we are the only local government unit invited to share innovations and practices on snit-trafficking,” the mayor said, adding that his presence there must be because “we are doing something wrong so we can share not what to do or we must be doing something right and we are sharing our best practices.” “Of course, it was the latter,” he quickly quipped.

Yesterday’s event, he said, was another highlight in “our continuous quest for dynamic and comprehensive approaches to eradicating human trafficking and in giving justice to victims and their families.”

Lobregat also said that the presence of US Ambassador Thomas demonstrates the seriousness and
commitment of the US government in the fight against trafficking in persons, as he also commended the Visayan Forum Foundation, the PPA Gender and Development Program and other partner-agencies for continuously joining efforts with the city government of Zamboanga, which is one of the first LGUs in the country that responded top the call for the creation of an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

The council gathers different local government units and agencies involved in trafficking to work closely in pursuing human trafficking cases.

Zamboanga City likewise boasts of the first conviction in the country under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 or RA 9208. 

The conviction, handed down on December 5, 2005 came on the very day when US Ambassador at large John Miller, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US State Department was visiting Zamboanga, at a time when the Philippines was downgraded to Tier 2 watch list ranking.

Just last February 8, Lobregat revealed, Zamboanga scored its 5th conviction but the first for labor trafficking in the country.

“Of the 20 convictions on human trafficking cases all over the Philippines, Zamboanga City holds the highest number of convictions  now at 5—a testimony of our serious pursuit against traffickers in the country. As of today, we have recorded over 30 human trafficking cases under different status,” the city chief executive said, as he called on all agencies to close ranks to stem the despicable crime in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.

Also present during the signing ceremony were USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele, JSOTFP commander Capt. Robert Gusentine, Visayan Forum Foundation president Cecil Oebanda, City Prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron, Port District Manager Atty. Christian Santillan and members of the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force which is a creation of the Zamboanga City Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking. — Vic Larato