ASEAN experts in the fields of law enforcement, prosecution, social welfare and human rights protection arrived in Manila to attend the 4th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) Experts Working Group (EWG) that will deliberate the drafts of the ASEAN Convention to Combat, Prevent and Suppress Trafficking In Persons Especially Women and Children in Southeast Asia (ACTIP) and the corresponding Regional Plan of Action (RPA) prepared by the Philippines.
The ACTIP will serve as the legal framework for the ASEAN to effectively cooperate and enhance regional efforts in combating human trafficking, while the RPA is the action-oriented instrument that will implement and operationalize the convention.
The Philippine Center for Transnational Crimes (PCTC) Executive Director and SOMTC head Felizardo Serapio Jr. formally opened the 3-day meeting at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati last September 4, 2013. Serapio said “the meeting represents continued progress in ASEAN’s efforts at providing concrete and collective response to the increasing threat of trafficking in persons in the region. The Philippines, as the ASEAN’s Lead Shepherd on combating human trafficking, shares the hope of every ASEAN Member State of seeing human trafficking curtailed to safeguard our regional security and protect the welfare of our people.”
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, also the chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said in her keynote speech, “Trafficking in Persons is a pernicious evil that dehumanizes the victim and the perpetrator by exploiting the body and corrupting the soul. It is rightly condemned by universal norms of natural and international law.”
She cited various challenges and referred to the Palermo Protocol as setting up minimum norms in the global sphere that reflect the universal value of human dignity. De Lima further impressed upon the delegates, “Our nations have entrusted to your wisdom, as the assembled experts of our region, the task of determining how the objective dignity of human beings can be best protected in Southeast Asia. I firmly believe that the passage and adoption of the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons and the Regional Plan of Action would fuel the implementation of a broad-based strategy, focused on maximizing our harmonious relationship and cooperation amid the plurality of traditions,by upholding universal values the ASEAN Way.”
This 4th EWG meeting on the ACTIP and RPA in the Philippines is the result of a breakthrough achieved during the last EWG on Trafficking In Persons (TIP) meeting in April 2013, also hosted by the Philippines, for the SOMTC to progress towards the finalization a much-needed legally-binding instrument to combat human trafficking in the region. The output from this three-day meeting will be reported by the Philippines as SOMTC Lead Shepherd on TIP to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) scheduled on September 15-16 this year in Lao PDR.