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Sen. Cayetano hits Palace downplay of sex tours

September 27, 2011 ·  By Cathy Yamsuan, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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How exactly would Malacañang know if a tourist was coming to the Philippines for sex? Did he check a box on his visa application indicating so?

Senate women and youth committee chairperson Pia Cayetano wanted to know in a privilege speech she delivered Monday, after the Palace downplayed last week a claim made by US Ambassador Harry Thomas that 40 percent of male tourists came to the country primarily for sex.

Senator Pia Cayetano. INQUIRER file photo

Senator Pia Cayetano. INQUIRER file photo

“Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez clarified that the statistics cited were inaccurate and (presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail) Valte said tourism records showed that shopping and sightseeing were the dominant activities of both male and female tourists in the Philippines,” Cayetano said.

“How can Malacañang determine the exact purpose of every tourist’s visit? Is there a form that tourists fill that state what they intend to do in the Philippines? And does that form provide a box where the tourist can indicate that he is coming to the Philippines to shop for women or to procure illegal sex,” she said.

Cayetano quoted a 2009 study that said there were 800,000 prostitutes in the Philippines, half of them minors.

“In fact, the Philippines ranks fourth among countries with the most number of prostituted children. A study by the Psychological Trauma Program of the University of the Philippines notes that prostitution may now be the fourth largest source of the (gross national product),” she said.

Cayetano lamented the government was not aggressive enough about curbing prostitution.

“In Cambodia, they have signs posted in areas such as men’s toilets indicating telephone numbers one can ring if he sees one acting suspiciously. Pedophilia is a crime in Cambodia and the authorities do imprison offenders,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said, the Internet hosts scores of websites that offer sex services in the Philippines.

The US government had set up a classification system for countries based on their efforts to combat human trafficking.

Cayetano said the United States and lending institutions referred to a country’s rank as a basis for granting it humanitarian aid.

In his interpellation, Senator Francis Escudero questioned the timing of Thomas’ statement since it coincided with President Aquino’s visit to the United States last week.

“Why did (Thomas) make the disclosure (then)? It was either in bad taste or uncalled for.  Certainly it was unfair,” Escudero said.

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