Senators yesterday urged the government not to downplay the problem of prostitution, saying the police must prosecute sex-tour syndicates and a tougher law is needed to protect victims.
Stung by a claim last week by US ambassador Harry Thomas that 40 percent of foreign male tourists “go to the country primarily for sex,” Senator Pia Cayetano took the government to task for downplaying the remark or even denying the problem outright.
The presidential palace and tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez “appear to be in a state of denial regarding the existence and continued proliferation of sex tourism in our country,” said Cayetano.
They dwelt on questioning the accuracy of the ambassador’s statistics, she said, “instead of directly addressing the issue
Senator Aquilino Pimentel said sex tour organizers and operators are responsible for the upsurge of prostitution in the country. Many of these syndicates prey on innocent girls who are taken advantage of because they are poor.
But officials deny prostitution thrives in the tourism industry. “Thousands of foreigners, I am sure, do not only come here to look for sex but for surfing” and other scenic attractions, said Maria Victoria Jasmin, undersecretary of the department of tourism.
An NGO catering to the needs of abused children said the US ambassador’s estimate of the extent of prostitution in the country was even conservative.
“Tourists come not just to see places. They are looking for pleasures, something to enjoy for themselves,” said Milet Paguio, a social worker from the People’s Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA).
She said minors are often the victims. “Children are innocents. They are not aware of the laws or child rights. They are easy to manipulate. When they are offered money, they easily get engaged with it until it becomes a habit. They don’t realize that their rights are violated,” said Paguio.
Poverty is not the only reason why girls are prone to sex abuses. “The influence of the internet and a lack of parental guidance are also to blame,” Paguio said.