[Press Release] Around 500 Advocates and Cyclists declared “War against Human Trafficking” at the Iloilo Freedom Ride; make Zamboanga their next stop -Dakila

Around 500 Advocates and Cyclists declared “War against Human Trafficking” at the Iloilo Freedom Ride; make Zamboanga their next stop. 

More than 400 cyclists joined the rideAll roads led to the Iloilo Provincial Capitol last April 20, 2013 as around 500 cyclists gathered at the Freedom Ride for a Human Trafficking Free Philippines. Dubbed as one of the biggest and broadest bike tour ever held in Panay, the campaign mobilized cyclists, students, NGOs, artists, sports and lifestyle enthusiasts, government officials and even participants coming from Manila and nearby provinces like Aklan.

According to musician, advocate, and cycling enthusiast Nityalila who heads the Freedom Ride Project of Dakila,“As cyclists, it is important for us to be aware of road signs to help us get to our destinations safely. Using this metaphor for the Stop, Look, and Listen campaign of Dakila gets the important message across to the public that in order to stop human trafficking, we must always be aware of the signs to avoid being trafficked and listen to the stories of those who were trafficked and most vulnerable to trafficking so that we may learn from it and contribute on ways to help prevent it. “

The Freedom Ride is organized by the artist collective, Dakila, a group creatively inspiring involvement in social transformation, in partnership with the Manila Fixed Gear, the Freedom from Debt Coalition Iloilo, Partido ng Manggagawa, and the Iloilo Folding Bike Riders (I-Fold) with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

“A lot of people in the provinces fall prey to human trafficking because of the lack of information given to them. Iloilo is one of the more vulnerable provinces for labor trafficking especially with the number of Overseas Filipino Workers and seafarers coming from the province. Its proximity to Boracay and other tourist spots also makes Iloilo a transit area for sex trafficking. We are glad that the local government, NGOs, the cycling groups, artists and advocates here in Iloilo have embraced the call to be Freedom Warriors. We hope that through the Freedom Ride more people here in Iloilo will learn more about human trafficking and contribute in the movement to stop modern day slavery”, said Karen Bermejo, co-organizer and head of the Dakila Iloilo Collective.

Every year around 300,000 to 400,000 Filipinos fall prey to human trafficking in our own country and abroad.The Philippines remains a source, transport and destination area for human trafficking. In 2010, the Philippines was in danger of being downgraded to a Tier 3 status in the US Department of State human trafficking index for a poor performance in the fight against human trafficking and for being in the Tier 2-watchlist (a list that included countries having the most number of human trafficking victims and with less government efforts to stop forms of human trafficking) for two consecutive years. This could have caused the withdrawal of some $700 million in non-humanitarian, non-trade related aid including grants from the millennium challenge program. As a result of intensified efforts, the country’s status was upgraded a notch higher to Tier 2 in 2011 and maintained the status in 2012. Tier 2 countries are those, which have shown significant efforts to fight human trafficking but have yet to fully comply with standards set by the United States’ Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Report.

According to Dakila President, multi-awarded writer, journalist, musician and pop-culture icon, Lourd de Veyra, “Not only are we a country with 10 million of our countrymen working abroad and where disasters, armed conflict and poverty force most of us to find better opportunities and safer living space elsewhere, but also a society where the luster of city life and promise of fast cash continue to attract people from the rural communities. As a result, more people are becoming vulnerable to human trafficking. The involvement and support of the country’s fast growing cycling community in the Freedom Rides galvanizes the use of road signs to help simplify the concept of the campaign and make it easier for the public to understand.”

The ASEAN member states including the Philippines have committed themselves to the fight against human trafficking. However, in reality, there is still prevalence of cross-border human trafficking across ASEAN countries and there is still an absence of a more cohesive resolution in approaching the issue. The ASEAN Experts Working Group on Trafficking in Persons of the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crimes (SOMTC) is due to happen in Manila this April to May 2013. Asia’s growing concern lies in the region’s booming sex tourism industry, child brides, labor exportation, and widespread poverty that fosters black market. Governments have little incentive to combat internal and cross border sale of people, and profit from revenues generated by sex tourism and cheap unregulated shadow labor market.

“Global estimates are that 27 million people are enslaved, half of them children. The numbers today are more than the entire 200-year long Atlantic slave trade. We hope by creating much public support, the government intensifies its efforts in addressing human trafficking especially in working with other countries to stop modern day slavery. By using popular culture like bike rides, social media, music and film, Dakila’s campaign aims to contribute in making the public aware of human trafficking and empower them to take action. Through this Freedom Ride, we want to show that our country is one with the world and that we can achieve a human trafficking free Philippines”, ended de Veyra.

The Freedom Ride served as the launch of the Stop, Look, and Listen campaign of Dakila in Iloilo to intensify efforts to stop human trafficking in the Philippines. The campaign kicked off last March 9 through the first Freedom Ride in Manila led by His Excellency Ambassador Ton Boon von Ochssee and Mrs. Martine Boon von Ochssee of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Josef Rychtar of the Czech Embassy, and H.E. Guy Ledoux of the European Union, Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) Chief Senior State Prosecutor Jonathan Lledo and participated by members of the diplomatic community; top officials of Dutch Corporations, officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Immigrations, Office of the Executive Secretary of the Office of the President, Miss Earth winners, and celebrities like Reema Chanco and Albert Martinez.

The next Freedom Ride will happen on April 27, 2013 (Saturday) in Zamboanga City. Assembly will be at Plaza del Pilar at 3:30pm.

For more information about the campaign, visit http://dakila.org.ph/freedomproject/.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ayeen Karunungan 09175057055

E-mail: mabuhay@dakila.org.ph

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