US Supports Halfway House in Philippines for Victims of Trafficking

May. 11, 2007

MANILA — The American people are proud to support efforts against trafficking in persons in the Philippines and most importantly, programs that support victims by giving them shelter and emotional care.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney demonstrated this support by giving the keynote remarks at the dedication and capsule laying ceremony for the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.s (VFFI) new halfway house at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Monday, May 7.

The halfway house, called Bahay Silungan sa Paliparan, is being built by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) on airport grounds. VFFI will operate the house with financial support from the U.S. Government. The halfway house will shelter up to 40 people at a time, providing victims and potential victims of trafficking temporary shelter, counseling, repatriation, and legal advice. It will be completed in December 2007.

Alfonso G. Cusi, MIAA General Manager, and Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, VFFI President, also gave remarks and joined Ambassador Kenney at the construction site to bury a dedication capsule containing a May 7 newspaper, the memorandum of understanding for the houses construction, and a copy of the architectural plans. Pictured above (L to R) are Herminia Castillo, Chairman, MIAA Gender and Development Committee: General Manager Cusi; Ambassador Kenney; VFF President Flores-Oebanda; Attorney Severino Gana, Jr., Assistant Chief State Prosecutor, Department of Justice; and Commissioner Napoleon Morales, Bureau of Customs.

Human trafficking is a crime. It is a threat in every society, said VFF President Flores-Oebanda. Referring to the new halfway house, she said she is optimistic that there is a bright light of hope for change in the trafficking situation here.

General Manager Cusi and Ambassador Kenney noted the partnership represented by the building of the halfway house, congratulating government agencies, private organizations, nonprofit groups, media, and private citizens for joining together in the fight against human trafficking. The crime of trafficking in persons is not something that one voice alone can fix, said Ambassador Kenney. We need to let people who would be trafficked know that this is a crime and that they must say no; they must resist. We must protect innocent victims. Today we join forces to take another step forward in that protection to offer victims a safe place and a sanctuary.

The battle against human trafficking is a high priority for the U.S. Government and the American people. Development assistance from the American people contributed more than $1 million to support anti-trafficking activities in the Philippines last year, including nearly $500,000 in financial support to the VFF to operate halfway houses at several ports throughout the country. The U.S. also trains law enforcement officials on evidence-gathering techniques for human trafficking cases; and partners with prosecutors on creating models for handling these sensitive cases.

In close cooperation with the Philippines, the U.S. Government will continue to be a strong and dedicated partner of the Filipino people in combating trafficking in persons.

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