TACLOBAN CITY, April 10 (PNA) — The United States has renewed its commitment to fully assist the Philippine government in its war against human trafficking in Samar provinces.

“Just as the government recognizes that the fight against trafficking requires whole government approach, this summit demonstrates the commitment of the United States against human trafficking,” said Burak Inanc, deputy resident director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

“We stand with you,” he told participants of the two-day anti-trafficking in persons summit in the city which ended Thursday.

Rachel Parrish, US embassy human rights and trafficking in persons coordinator, also said that US will continue to join with the country’s efforts to end human trafficking, calling it as modern day slavery.

“We remain ready to support your effort,” Parrish said, even as she recognized that in 2014 US report on trafficking in persons, the Philippines “remained at Tier 2.”

According to the US embassy, the status means that the country “made significant efforts to combat trafficking; however, the country has not yet fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The US embassy, in an earlier statement, said that US funding for the Agency Council Against Trafficking “nearly doubled to the equivalent of approximately USD2.4 million in 2013.”

“We need to do more,” Parrish said, urging the participants to come up with more tools to investigate human trafficking cases and programs to support its victims.

About a hundred advocates, social workers and law enforces joined with other 15 local chief executives coming from areas covered by the 222-kilometer Samar Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) funded by over USD 214-million grant of the US government through MCC.

The mayors came from the towns of Hinabangan and Paranas in Samar; Borongan City, Maydolong, Balangkayan, Llorente, Hernani, General MacArthur, Sulat, Taft, San Julian, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes and Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

Organizing the event were non-governmental organization Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) and Millennium Challenge Account-Philippines (MCA-P), which acted as the country’s entity in-charged for managing the implementation of the USD 434-million grant of MCC used to reduce poverty and spur economic growth by opening roads and other community-driven development projects in the Philippines.

Bingle HB Gutierrez, deputy managing director for operation of MCA-P, said their partnership with PACT includes “information, education and communication campaign against trafficking in person which includes a series of community education and training session continuously being carried out in SNRDP areas since 2013 aimed at raising awareness on human trafficking especially in detecting and reporting potential trafficking in persons cases.”

With their partnership, 559 social workers, police officers, teachers and community organizers were trained as educators who in turn, conducted echo training in their respective communities.

The community education sessions have benefited 14,000 individuals in barangays and schools on RA 9208 or Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, it added.

Maria Salome Ujano, PACT national coordinator, said that solving human trafficking in the Philippines needs “multi-agency efforts” especially if fighting against rich and powerful offenders.

“Psycho-social support to the victims is very important considering the lack in number of social workers in our local government units and counselling is least of their priority,” Ujano said.

Ujano disclosed that aside from poverty, higher incidence of human trafficking can also be attributed to out-migration, too much exposure to internet and materialism, family violence, travel and tourism, lack of knowledge on law and fear of retaliation, among others.

Citing a report from Department of Justice on updates on trafficking in persons convictions through Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking, Ujano said that from 2005 to February 23, 2015, the number of convictions on human trafficking in the Philippines reached 180 while number of persons convicted totaled 202.

During the summit, the mayors signed a statement of commitment to support the country’s anti-trafficking law, which includes passing local ordinances on anti-trafficking in persons, strengthening their anti-trafficking committee, and coming up with program and services for victims of human trafficking like social reintegration.

Officials from the Regional Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (RIACAT), Philippine Commission on Women, and Council for the Welfare of Children also discussed on challenges in addressing human trafficking issues faced by local government units, with the presence of Atty. Neil Simon Silva, assistant secretary of Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking, Department of Justice.

In March 2013, the US embassy and PACT signed an agreement to carry out a massive campaign against human trafficking in towns covered by the US-funded road projects in Samar and Eastern Samar provinces. (PNA)