Sex Tourism in Olongapo

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James Trewby

Child Sex Tourism in the Philippines
James Trewby works for Bosco Volunteer Action (BOVA), a volunteer organisation of the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic Religious order dedicated to be signs and bearers of the love of God for young people, especially those who are disadvantaged. The Salesians have projects around the world, including schools, youth centres, homes for street children and vocational training centres. BOVA offers opportunities to adults to live and work with Salesian communities, assisting in their work with young people while experiencing life outside the UK. Placements last between one month and two years. If you are interested in volunteering or supporting BOVA please find out more at wwwboscovolunteeraction.co.uk. James can be contacted at jtrewby@hotmail.com.

This essay aims to discuss the issues involved in child sex tourism, with a particular focus on the Philippines. It will begin by reviewing the historical context of sex tourism in the Philippines, then go on to consider the current situation: who engages in child sex tourism; poverty and negative livelihood strategies; the ‘leakage’ of tourist money; the role of social distanciation; and issues regarding age. It will conclude with a discussion of what is and could be done to end child sex tourism.

In addition to a range of print and internet-based sources, this essay also makes use of the author’s experience of living and teaching for a year (2005/6) in Pasil in Cebu City, in the South of the Philippines. Pasil is a slum area built over the remains of the city’s rubbish dump.

The Philippines are made up of 7,107 islands and has a total population of over 82 million people (World Guide 2005). It has a long and colourful history and because of its strategic positioning on oceanic trade routes, has been occupied by the Spanish, Americans and Japanese. Largely due to the presence of US military bases, prostitution became big business throughout the Twentieth Century and continues today. American servicemen stationed in bases such as Olangapo Bay required ‘R and R’ (Rest and Relaxation), sometimes referred to as “I and I – Intoxication and Intercourse” (Montgomery 2001, p198). Due to the country’s poverty and the relative wealth of the customers the sex industry grew quickly, offering shows, Western-style food, music and hotels. In time this sub-sector of the hospitality industry began to cater for non-military foreigners – sex tourists. Along with Thailand it fed 1

into and fed off the stereotype of the “beautiful, pliant and docile Oriental women” (Montgomery 2001, p198).

The Philippines have the fourth-largest number of child prostitutes in the world, estimated at around seventy-five thousand (Rowthorn, Choy, Grosberg, Martin and Orchard 2003, p36). The Cebu Office of the organisation ‘End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes’ (ECPAT-Cebu) placed the figure between sixty thousand and one hundred thousand in 1998 and believes that it may have risen since then (Bato-Lata 1999, p1). Various sources suggest that nine out of ten of their customers are Filipino (Bato-Lata 1999, p5 and Montgomery 2001, p194). When one considers that the vast majority of the world’s tourism is interregional this is no great surprise.

We have seen that the majority of abusers are local, national or inter-regional. This essay aims to look particularly at the other customers, Westerners, who are often referred to as ‘child sex tourists’. Due to the secrecy which inevitably surrounds the child sex industry it is difficult to find complete statistics, particularly regarding Western tourists’ involvement. There is no doubt that it exists. Seabrook’s book ‘No Hiding Place: Child Sex Tourism and the role of extraterritorial legislation’ (2000) uses examples involving the Philippines in over half of its case studies. The number of cases involving Western tourists referred to social workers...
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