The Bangsamoro region is at a strategic geographical location for trade and tourism, given its ports and proximity to other countries in Southeast Asia. However this same feature, coupled with cases of poverty caused by decades of conflict in the region, places its residents at risk of exploitation and abuse linked to trafficking in persons. Country data show that women are among the most vulnerable, making up about two-thirds of trafficked persons, mostly between the ages of 18 and 30.
As part of its ongoing efforts to eradicate human trafficking in the region, the Bangsamoro Parliament has passed the Overseas Bangsamoro Workers Act in June 2021. Alongside this, the Ministry of Labor and Employment will establish a help desk for overseas Bangsamoro workers in countries with Philippine Overseas Labor Offices, in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other government agencies.
This complements ongoing efforts of a special task force against human trafficking that was established through a memorandum of agreement signed by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center in January 2020. The BARMM Task Force would handle human trafficking cases that involve OFWs and pursue cases against perpetrators while providing psychosocial and legal services to victims.
As we continue our work during the political transition, we will continue to address factors that force Bangsamoro residents to seek opportunities elsewhere despite the risks involved. We will also continue joint efforts with the national government to intercept trafficked persons, ensure social support and protection for victims, and continue to engage communities on ground as we work towards inclusive and sustainable development for all.