Sex Tourism... in the Philippines...Enjoy!
From Manilla Standard Today by Roderick T. dela Cruz
The owner of a travel agency concedes that the sex industry is beyond the control of the Department of Tourism (DoT). He also admits that when tourists
are looking for sex, travel agencies have no choice but to tell them where it can be found. And it can be found in many places.
Along Quezon Avenue, it can be found fastest at massage parlors, where customers choose who to have sex with from a roomful of girls. All this in the guise of getting a massage for P1,500 to P2,000. (P1000 = £11.20, $19.50)
One of the oldest massage parlors in the area had to bring down its charges and offer promo rates to lure back customers who have found a wider selection of girls from the salon. One that has been getting a lot of attention lately is an exclusive massage
parlor where politicians, businessmen, actors, foreigners and moneyed individuals have been sighted.
Casas (brothels), which are not considered legitimate establishments, offer sex services at more affordable rates. Then, there are also clubs, bars and KTVs where customers and GROs (guest relation officers) or bar girls can spend an hour or more at the
VIP room with their customers for P1,500 to P2,000 and have sex for another P2,000 to P2,500. Outside the VIP room, a lady's drink would cost the customer P500 to P600 every 30 minutes. One of these clubs in Quezon City is getting a lot of Japanese and
Korean customers, because it is known for employing really young girls.
Another form of prostitution is the so-called escort service, where the call girl accompanies the tourist to the places he wants to visit, including the hotel room where he stays. This has also evolved into a sex tour. In Makati City, some expatriates
recruit girls to join them in a party where sex is open to everyone who is present. The escort service trade is highly popular in Puerto Galera, Palawan and Boracay.
It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 sex workers in the Philippines. A search for the word Filipina or Filipino woman at global search engine Google.com would most likely result in links to pornography sites. One site promotes mail order brides;
another, video clips of sex for a fee and another, sex tours in the Philippines. Meet some sweet Filipina girls from small Philippine towns , one Web site says in its header.
Amid the spread of prostitution in the Philippines, women's group Gabriela blames the tourism program of the government as a contributory factor to the growing problem of prostitution: The tourism program of the government which aims to project the
Philippines as a major tourist destination has increased the number of prostituted women. As more and more areas of the country are targeted for tourism, more and more women are driven to prostitution in desperation to ensure their family's survival.
The Philippines used to send many 'entertainers' to Japan, but with the stricter immigration and working policies in the world's second largest economy and the growth in international tourism in the Philippines, many girls actually decided to work in local
bars and KTVs while waiting for their working visas.
As expected, the DoT is quick to deny any link between prostitution and tourism. But not all officials are singing the same tune. One DoT official, who has been stripped of his previous functions, has criticized the present focus on Korea, Japan and China
without sustaining the promotion efforts in the more sophisticated markets of Germany and the United Kingdom. Senator Richard Gordon, a former tourism secretary, admits that quality tourists still come from Western and Northern Europe.
Eduardo Jarque Jr., assistant secretary for tourism planning and promotion at DoT, says prostitution is not exclusive to the Philippines. Other countries have the same problem. We just can't control it, he says pragmatically. He admits that
foreigners are attracted to the caring attitude of the Filipinos. Foreigners find us friendly. With such a short time of stay in the country, foreigners' quality of enjoyment here is very high.
For his part, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano insists that nobody is selling the country as a sex tourism destination. We welcome everyone as long as they are legitimate tourists, but we do not condone prostitution, he says. Prostitution,
according to him, is not just a tourism issue, but a social issue that needs to be addressed by everyone, not only by the DoT. We even discourage it. Families are the type of tourists we are bringing into the country, he says.
Two economists from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), however, caution the DoT against following the Thailand model. Prof. Winston Padojinog and Prof. Maria Cherry Lyn Rodolfo say the country should move away from sex tourism and toward
quality tourism in order to get quality tourists.
Instead of attracting male-dominated tourist groups, the two economists say the country will do better by drawing in family vacationers to the country's tourist destinations, which are really among the best in the world. Data shows that the average age
of foreign tourists in the Philippines was 38 as of 2004, which means it is not getting a lot of its desired tourists - families on vacation.
Industry players cite the need for the government to sell these tourist spots and the entire archipelago as a wholesome family destination, where foreign tourists can enjoy the best of nature with their families. They say this can truly offer a wonderful
travel experience, and not just satisfy a few carnal desires.