Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said his agency would continue to exert more efforts in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking in all fronts, locally or overseas.
Roque, who also sits as chairman of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Board, made this assurance as recent news reports by a non-government organization indicating an increase in human trafficking activities in the Philippines.
Roque said the government has consolidated all its resources and focal agencies into one Task Force that would directly address the problem of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
Roque said through Executive Order 548-A issued recently by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the role of POEA, an attached agency of the DOLE, has been defined and strengthened as mandated by R.A 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
The order has amended and superseded the previous EO, which created a task force against illegal recruitment under the supervision of the Commission of Filipino Overseas, Roque said.
He clarified, however, that the CFO shall be in charged of the task force against human trafficking as provided for by EO 548-A.
EO 548-A, he stressed, redefined in clearer terms the functions of POEA and CFO in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
"This shall enable the POEA in coordination with the regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure greater focus in fighting illegal recruiters down to the local level," he said.
Roque said that the executive order underscored the on-going campaign of POEA to involve local government units in the fight against illegal recruiters.
He said that the agency has forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila late last year, particularly with the city governments of Taguig, Valenzuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, and Quezon City.
The agreements, he said, called for the active participation of the concerned local government authorities in surveillance and investigation of establishments and entities suspected of engaging in illegal recruitment in their respective jurisdiction.
The labor chief said that POEA is set to forge similar agreements with other LGUs in Metro Manila and other regions this year in line with Executive Order No. 548-A and RA 8042.
Pursuant to the law, POEA shall continue to adopt policies and procedures and implement programs towards the eradication of illegal recruitment.
The agency shall also coordinate with the task force, along with other government agencies and the CFO which serves as task force chair, in addressing the problem on human trafficking.
As chair of the task force, CFO shall recommend to the inter-agency council against trafficking policies, programs, and services aimed at eliminating trafficking in persons.
IACAT is the primary body tasked to coordinate, monitor, and oversee the implementation of programs against trafficking in persons as provided for by RA No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
“We always believe that the best way to prevent or minimize illegal recruitment or human trafficking is for would be overseas workers to check and verify first with the authorities, particularly with POEA, any offer of overseas job by individuals or entities engaged in overseas employment before dealing with them,” Roque said.
The labor secretary added that among the safety nets and measures established by the DOLE to mitigate if not totally eradicate or prevent illegal recruitment and human trafficking is the conduct of Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars, the establishment of Public Employment Service Offices in cities and municipalities nationwide which assist workers for their local or overseas employment; and linkages with various agencies of government charged with migration and travel.
Overseas, the Labor Chief said the 34 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of the DOLE established worldwide help trace, shelter, assist and repatriate victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.