Pia: Palace downplaying issue of prostitution and sex tourism in PH

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today took to task Malacanang and newly appointed tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez for downplaying the remarks made recently by United States ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas, Jr., that up to ‘40 percent’ of foreign male tourists go to the country primarily for sex.

“The Palace and Sec. Jimenez appear to be in a state of denial regarding the existence and continued proliferation of sex tourism in our country. The remark made by Ambassador Thomas that up to 40% of male foreign tourists come here primarily for sex was met by an avalanche of denials from the government,” said Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and family Relations.

“Instead of directly addressing the issue, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte and Sec. Jimenez dwelt on questioning the accuracy of the ambassador’s statistics. But in the first place, may we ask, what has the government been doing to address these problems?” she asked.

“Whether it’s 40%, 20%, or 10%, one wouldn’t need to hire a survey outfit to find out that sex tourism is happening in many of our tourist destinations and luring many foreign tourists. In fact, we don’t even have to physically visit these areas to verify for ourselves because with just one click of a mouse, we will see that sex tours to the Philippines are openly being promoted to foreigners through the internet and social networking sites.”

“Sec. Jimenez has also stated that our ‘message’ to all tourists is that ‘if you come here for darker reasons, we don’t want your business.’ But really now, do we see this message being aggressively conveyed in our airports, hotels and motels, or in known red light districts all over the country?”

“In Cambodia, for instance, signs are literally posted all over, including in strategic areas like inside men’s toilets, warning would-be offenders that pedophilia is a crime in their country. At the same time, the public is encouraged to report people acting suspiciously, including foreign nationals, to police authorities or to their respective embassies by dialing a government hotline against pedophilia.”

Cayetano is set to deliver a privilege speech on Monday to discuss the problems of prostitution and sex tourism in the country and call on the Senate to prioritize Senate Bill No.2341, the proposed ‘Anti-Prostitution Act,’ which she also authored.

The measure seeks to change the treatment of persons exploited in prostitution as victims of the system and not as criminals. It also shifts the accountability of prostitution from the prostituted person to the exploiters by amending existing provisions in the Revised Penal Code. #

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