Human trafficking, illegal drugs and terrorism are high on the agenda of senior officials from ten ASEAN member countries during the 10th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) which formally started today at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, who delivered the keynote address during the meeting, said there is a need to strengthen regional cooperation and commitment against these crimes and the other transnational crimes identified in the ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime in 1997 namely, piracy on the high seas, cyber crimes, intellectual property, money laundering and arms smuggling.
Robredo said that sophisticated weaponry, modern technologies and telecommunications have to a certain extent served to the advantage of organized crime groups that are operating across borders.
“Crimes have evolved and taken many forms and these will continue to be an issue for all of us here,” he said. “This should serve as a challenge for us to work more closely together for a more comprehensive regional strategy against transnational crimes,” he added.
The DILG Secretary said thePhilippines, which was chosen as the Lead Shepherd for Trafficking in Persons (TIP), has always been in the forefront of regional and local actions against trafficking in persons.
“Human trafficking is a significant issue in the country and as early as 2003, the government has already passed Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which makes us one of the first countries in Asia to have enacted an anti-trafficking legislation,” he said.
Relatedly, the DILG issued several directives to local government units for the strict implementation of the said law at the local level and establishment of the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons.
He also said that the National Police Commission also issued a memo circular on the guidelines for improving case management and initiating efforts towards addressing the problem of trafficking in persons.
Participants in the high-level ASEAN meet are senior officials from ASEAN member states (AMS) namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam; other country delegates of the AMS; representatives from dialogue partner countries and other international organizations.
“It is my hope that by the time this meeting comes to a close, we will be in a more strategic position to effectively address new and more sophisticated criminal threats, and closer to our goal of a peaceful and stable ASEAN region,” Robredo said, as he expressed his gratitude to the dialogue partners, regional and international organizations for actively assisting ASEAN to overcome this global menace.
During the meeting, the ASEAN Handbook on International Legal Cooperation in Trafficking in Persons shall also be launched which contains basic information on cooperation tools including mutual legal assistance and extradition as well as guidance on how tools can be used in TIP cases.
DILG Undersecretary for Peace and Order Rico E. Puno, who is the chair of this year’s SOMTC, said the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) is the operating arm of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMC), the highest policy-making body on ASEAN cooperation in combating transnational crimes.
The SOMTC is instrumental in realizing the recommendations of the Vientiane Action Plan to develop the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism which has been signed by all ASEAN member countries. ###