There are an estimated 261,200 people in modern slavery in Philippines – this is equivalent to 0.2655% of the entire population
Modern slavery exists in the Philippines in all its forms, however the issue of forced labour for Filipinos working abroad is a significant concern.1 The most recent survey on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) by the Philippine Statistics Authority suggests that one in every two Filipino women working abroad are unskilled, and employed as domestic workers, cleaners, or in the service sector.2 These sectors represent some of the highest industry risks for modern slavery. As such, Filipino women are often subject to forced labour, have no access to their passport, limited – if any – rights, and experience sexual and physical abuse by employer.3 Filipino workers are also vulnerable to forced labour and involuntary servitude in the sex industry throughout Asia and the Middle East. 4
Products known to be produced using modern slavery 5
Of particular concern is the trafficking of women under the guise of marriage for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.6 The United Nations estimates that 100,000 children in the Philippines are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation each year,7 with many cases linked to organised crime groups.8 Filipino men are also subject to forced labour abroad, with many working in the construction industry, seafaring and maritime work, agriculture and manufacturing.9 In 2013, young Filipino boxers were allegedly trafficked into Australia on sporting visas, where they were held in a debt bondage situation and forced to work in unpaid domestic labour.10
Despite tensions easing in the Mindanao region following a peace deal agreement between the Philippine Government and Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front in May 2014,11 South Mindanao remains volatile. Emerging factional conflict among breakaway gangs, Islamic militants and feuding clans threaten the newly established peace, and present a risk for children being recruited in armed political groups.12 Children are reportedly used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as guides and informants, and are engaged in actual armed conflict in groups like the New People’s Army, insurgent group Abu Sayyaf, and the and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.13
Forced and child labour exists in the agricultural sector within the Philippines, including in tobacco fields,14 banana plantations,15 and sugarcane crops.16 Children living in tobacco growing regions often work alongside their families to harvest and package tobacco leaves for export. Children as young as 12 years old were identified in the sector, with many working more than 43 hours per week, exposing them to dangerous levels of nicotine, and other hazardous farming chemicals.17 Pa-Aling Fishermen are subject to forced labour and exploitation at sea. The Pa-Aling fisherman face similar conditions to fisherman in Thailand and Malaysia, but these fishermen dive deep into the ocean with nothing but compressors in order to scare fish out of coral reef. They are often forced into these situations and lack legal protection.18
|Score||Survivors are supported||Criminal justice||Coordination and accountability||Attitudes, social systems and institutions||Business and government|
The Philippine Government addressed some recommendations made in the 2013 Global Slavery Index, and as a result continued to be regional leader in victim support and protection, particularly for OFWs.
In 2013, the Philippine Government increased protection for nationals working abroad through the establishment of 15 multi-agency Filipino workers’ resource centres to assist workers in 36 countries with populations of 20,000 or more Filipino workers.19 Filipino emigrants are required to register with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and part of that registration includes participation in the Pre-departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS),20 which is now available online.21 Information collected during the registration process is then used to inform policy and program development.22 Despite these efforts, the Batas Kasambahaya, which is the national legal instrument aligning laws with the Domestic Workers Convention (ILO 198), the government still faces challenges in implementing protections.23
Following reports of abuse of Filipino workers in the Gulf States, the Philippine Government introduced a raft of innovative measures to ensure domestic workers were protected. This includes standardised employment contracts that require pre-deployment verification by the Philippine Labour Office and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), a minimum monthly wage of $400 and holidays among other measures.24 Victim support and protection for both Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad are largely coordinated by the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT), which primarily focuses on recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims back into society.25 Government funding for this body and their initiatives was increased in 2014 to US$2.4 million.26
In addition to victim support and protection, the Government continued its efforts to implement the 2012-2016 National Strategic Plan on Trafficking in Persons27 Law enforcement efforts increased from 2013 to 2014, with the Government securing 31 sex trafficking convictions, two of which are from Pampanga, a province known to be a trafficking hot-spot.28 There were no convictions for labour trafficking and reports suggest the Government efforts to investigate and prosecute claims of sexual abuse and trafficking against officials in overseas Embassies has been limited.29 In one case, an Embassy official in Kuwait allegedly pressured an OFW to provide sex in return for her flight home, as well as removing another OFW from a shelter and putting her back into employment where she was sexually abused by her employer. Investigations are reportedly ongoing.30
The Philippines has made progress addressing issues of children in armed conflict, including drafting child protection legislation31 and military guidelines that prevent the use of schools. 32 Despite these measures, continuing factional violence threatens to undermine efforts.
|Slavery policy||Human rights||State stability||Discrimination||Development|
Situated on an active typhoon belt and on the cuff of shifting tectonic plates, the Philippines is a hotspot for natural disasters.33 In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan affected 3.2 million people, displaced 348,507 people, and destroyed homes, hospitals and public infrastructure.34 Reports suggest that the typhoon directly contributed to least two trafficking investigations.35
Despite this geographic vulnerability, the Philippines has benefitted from a rapidly expanding economy, with experts speculating it will emerge as a new ‘Tiger economy’.36 However, even with the implementation of progressive social protection schemes, steep wealth disparity and limited employment opportunities lead many Filipino workers to find employment overseas, particularly in the Gulf countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East.37 This is largely related to private sector improvements, with many still citing a highly corrupt judicial system.38
The systemic corruption evident at all levels of the Philippine government also contributes to the risk of modern slavery.39 However, positive progress in the fight against corruption is emerging – in 2013, Transparency International ranked the Philippines 94th out of 177 countries for perceptions of corruption levels,40 which was an improvement from previous ranking of 105th out of 175 countries.41
- Increase efforts to effectively implement the expanded anti-trafficking law at the local level, including better cooperation of key Government agencies to provide education, undertake awareness raising and support prosecutions.
- Immediately push the Draft Bill – Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict Act 2011 – through the senate and take required steps to implement the legislative protections for children
- Continue to monitor and respond to the use of children in armed conflict.
- Undertake information campaigns to ensure the public know how to identify and report cases of modern slavery.
- Upscale law enforcement efforts to prosecute all forms of modern slavery, including those involving Government officials in Embassies.
- Upscale efforts to ensure that employment conditions of OFWs is monitored and streamlined to ensure access to rights and protection, including establishing the central database to track cases of OFW exploitation.
- Continue to take steps towards the elimination of corruption, focusing more on corruption in the public and judicial systems.
- Pass, and implement protections outlined in the recently amended ‘Anti-Mail Order Bride Law’, and ‘Family Code’ to ensure both foreign nationals and Filipino citizens who use marriage for the purposes of sex trafficking, forced commercial sexual exploitation can be prosecuted, and victims have explicit rights to protection and support to exit the situation
- Businesses with suppliers in high risk industries such as tobacco and sugar cane, should undertake due diligence measures to identify any forced labour in their supply chains.
- Ensure supply chain traceability through supply chain mapping exercises and communicating with suppliers beyond the first tier.
- Develop a multi-sector initiative that includes key government departments, international businesses headquartered or with suppliers in the Philippines to respond to, and eradicate forced and child labour in the agricultural sector, particularly in tobacco, banana and sugarcane farming.
- Pre-empt, and respond to the risk of businesses using forced labour to remain competitive in the increasingly open market by enforcing labour protections and applying sanctions on businesses found to be using forced labour.
Linda, Rosie, Anna, and Maria were recruited to work as domestic helpers in Lebanon. It would be their first international trip. They were taken to Malaysia instead, through the illicit backdoor route from Zamboanga City in Southern Philippines to Sabah in Malaysia. Without their passports, they were made to travel in speedboats from one small island to another until they reached Sabah. Locals fetched them at each destination and dropped them off, where a new handler would be waiting. Their actions were so swift and well-organised that the four did not have much time to ask questions. The women saw many more speedboats on the little islands – also fetching other groups of people – perhaps migrants in similar situations. A man fetched them from their hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, but their van was intercepted by the police and the man turned on them. They were jailed amidst other illegal immigrants, many of whom may have been potential victims of human trafficking and smuggling. Even as the women travelled without their passports to Malaysia because these had been taken by their recruiters in the Philippines, their passports were suddenly with Malaysian immigration officials, with stamps from Sarawak, where they had not been. While they were in jail, the victims received calls from individuals affiliated with their recruiters who instructed them not to reveal any names. Their recruiters eventually managed to persuade the Malaysian jail officials to release them. They were deported from Malaysia and intercepted by the anti-trafficking task force at the airport in Manila. Their recruiters continue to harass them, but the women continue to file charges.
Retold by the Visayan Forum, a Filipino NGO working to eliminate modern-day slavery.
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