The Philippines is expected to achieve significant progress in its fight against human trafficking, as Senate approves Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act on third and final reading.
At the same time, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to immediately enact the bill, which is seen to strengthen existing laws against human trafficking.
"I urge President Aquino to fast-track the enactment of this measure into law for the sake of many of our people who are caught in the web of human trafficking. We must remain committed in eradicating this problem," Enrile said.
"(This will) not just to protect our women and children from predators, but also our overseas-Filipino-workers who suffer the most from human traffickers hiding in the guise of recruitment agencies," he added.
The senate president lauded the unanimous passage of Senate Bill No. 2625, which was co-sponsored by Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Franklin Drilon and Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
The amendatory law included the attempt to traffic a person as a crime whether by recruiting, transporting, selling, buying, and forcing women and children to engage in degrading activities such as prostitution.
As Senate Committee on Youth, Women, and Family Relations chairperson, Cayetano explained the law shall also impose penalties on those who will adopt women for forced labor or using children in armed conflicts.
"Anyone found to violate the provisions of this measure will be punished with 15 years imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1,000,000," Cayetano emphasized.
The Senate Bill No. 2625 shall also disclose the identity of persons accused of human trafficking so as to to warn the public and prevent would be victims to fall into such traps.
Earlier, the U.S. Department of State identified the Philippines as one of the countries that have had little progress in its fight to stop human trafficking.
In 2011, the country was delisted from the US State Department's watch list in its "Trafficking in Persons Report."
The Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbours to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but the call failed to raise widespread support ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory …