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Commitment Day Against Trafficking
Remarks by Australian Ambassador Rod Smith
Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila
15 March 2011
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning / magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. My thanks to the Visayan Forum for organising this very important Commitment Day Against Trafficking.
Human trafficking today represents the third largest illegal global trade after drugs and arms sales. Too many people continue to fall victim to traffickers and international criminal networks. Too many of them represent the most vulnerable in our communities – women and children.
So it must remain a priority task of governments and communities to tackle this heinous crime.
Australia applauds the renewed resolve with which the Philippines is working to combat human trafficking, particularly through the investigation, prosecution and conviction of offenders.
We also recognise that human trafficking is a transnational challenge, part of the response to which must involve cooperation at the regional and international levels.
We welcome Philippine participation in the Bali process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia. Through the Bali Process we are working together as neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region to combat human trafficking and smuggling through a series of practical workshops and capacity building programs, elevating regional awareness of the problem and helping to provide resources and expertise needed to tackle it.
The fourth Bali Process Ministerial Conference will take place at the end of this month, co-chaired by the Australian and Indonesian Foreign Ministers, and will further strengthen our cooperative efforts against human trafficking.
Australia is also pleased to be working closely with the Philippines and other regional countries in the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project – known as ARTIP. ARTIP is a project funded by the Australian Government Aid Program to enable a more effective and coordinated criminal justice response by regional governments to trafficking in persons.
In the Philippines the project has provided training for 404 Filipino criminal justice officials since 2009 (177 of whom were women) to build critical capacity to respond effectively to human trafficking. It has
-strengthened specialist and general law enforcement responses to trafficking,
- and improved policy, legal, research and outreach capacity.
To give one political example, just recently an ARTIP-trained police officer played a key role in an investigation in Region 6 that led firstly to the removal of three young women and three girls from highly exploitative consitions as sex workers in a nightclub, and then to the successful prosecution of the nightclub owner. His was the first conviction in Region 6 under the Anti-Trafficking Act , sending an important signal that there can no longer be impunity for such crimes.
Through ARTIP Australia was also pleased to support ASEAN in the development and launch last year of the ASEAN Trafficking in Persons Handbook on International Cooperation, a practical guide for law enforcement personnel.
ARTIP has also worked closely with the prosecutorial and judicial sectors in the Philippines to improve skills and training of judges and prosecutors in handling trafficking cases.
Some of you may be aware that ARTIP is scheduled to come to an end in August 2011. But it is clear that the work of combating trafficking in the Philippines and in the region is far from over, and I want to assure of Australia’s continuing commitment to support your efforts to combat trafficking. Our international aid agency, AusAID, is now in the process of developing a new program of work on trafficking in persons in ASEAN.
Thank you again to the Visayan Forum for its inestimably valuable work in combating trafficking. Maraming salamat and Mabuhay.