CEBU - A non-government organization called for the inclusion of provisions on human trafficking in a recent agreement between the US and the Philippine Government.

Lawyer and International Justice Mission (IJM) Manila field office director Samson Inocencio said adding provisions on human trafficking in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will “ensure that both nations are on the same page when it comes to aggressively counteracting all forms of trafficking in persons.”

The EDCA, signed during the visit of US President Barack Obama in Manila last April 28, aims to enhance the Philippine military’s defense capabilities.

More vulnerable

It gives American soldiers temporary access to more Philippine camps for joint military training and exercises.

Inocencio, in a statement, said the US and Philippine Governments need to pay more attention to the problem of human trafficking, as last year’s calamities have made many women and children more vulnerable.

“Those who have been displaced and have lost their livelihood are at risk of being preyed upon by sex traffickers and other predators who seek to take advantage of their dire circumstances,” he said.

Inocencio said bolstering the Philippines’ external security and defenses is crucial but “the key domestic issue that plagues vulnerable young children and women” is equally important.

Project Lantern’s aim

Through IJM’s anti-trafficking project called Project Lantern, the number of minors available for commercial sex in Metro Cebu dropped by 79 percent, Inocencio noted.

IJM launched the project in 2006 with the aim of boosting the capabilities of local law enforcement agencies in protecting children and women from sex trafficking.

Inocencio stressed the importance of cooperation among countries to combat sex trafficking, citing an international anti-cybersex effort called Operation Endeavour that resulted in the arrests of 11 offenders and rescue of 12 minors who were victims of sexual abuse online.

“This accomplishment was the result of collaboration between local and international law enforcement units,” he said.