By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FROM hushed conversations in nightspots to loud deliberations in the provincial board of Aklan, prostitution in Boracay Island has caught the attention of government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs).

The thriving sex trade in the island-resort was revealed during a briefing on the effects of tourism on children in Boracay last week.

The Aklan Provincial Technical Working Group and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committees on laws, health, and women sponsored the briefing.

The End Child Labor Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), an NGO that combats child prostitution, presented a report on the extent of child prostitution.

The ECPAT report – Situational Analysis of the Effects of Tourism on Children in Boracay – claimed that six bars and resorts in Boracay Island are tolerating child prostitution.

ECPAT also said that some of these alleged child prostitutes are residents of the island who are driven to sell their bodies due to poverty.

The study found that the girls frequent nightspots in the island bars and show themselves off to potential clients through sexy or dirty dancing or simply hanging out in the bar.

“While it is a fact that tourism in Boracay has obviously brought in money for the government, it too has its social costs. Boracay attracts not just responsible tourists who compose the majority, but also visitors whose purpose to travel is to exploit and engage in sexual activities involving children. This situation in turn makes other children in Boracay highly at risk due to exposure to the trade,” the ECPAT report said.

MINORS                         

Another study on commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Boracay cited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) identified 11 young women and three boys most of whom were actively involved in the sex trade.

Of the 11, five were minors, aged between 14 and 17, at the time of the interview. All 14 of them claimed they were sold by a pimp to a foreign client. All children said their first sexual abuses happened when they were 11-15 years old.

Some 337,666 tourists arrived in Boracay January to May 2009, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

Koreans constitute the largest number of these tourists at 30,369. They are also among the most frequent sex tourist clients based on ECPAT’s interview with child prostitutes.

Other foreign sex tourists come from Japan, France, Germany, England, China and the United States. The study, however, showed that there were also Filipino sex clients and even foreign gay tourists who seek young boys as sexual partners.

The “lady boys” was coined here to refer to prostituted males and boys dressing and acting like girls. The study showed they were more prone to violence and discrimination.

The CSEC victims interviewed claimed that payment for their sexual services vary depending on the time the client wants to spend with them.

On the average, they get P1,500 to as much as P5,000 from 30 minutes to a whole night of service. These alleged child prostitutes identified in the study claimed they have at least one to two customers per night. Peak season in Boracay also spells more customers for the minors.

RESPONSES

The ECPAT report prompted government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), DSWD, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to put a rescue mechanism in place in the Island resort.

DOLE 6 Regional Director Aida M. Estabillo directed their provincial office in Aklan to monitor and conduct inspection of establishments that are allegedly tolerating child prostitution.

Estabillo said she directed the Provincial Sagip Batang-Manggagawa Quick Action Team to joint efforts with law enforcement agencies and other entities to rescue child prostitutes in the island.

“This situation needs to be addressed immediately before it balloons and gets out of hand,” she added.

DOLE 6 said it regularly inspects establishments in Boracay but found no information on the existence of child labor. Night operating establishments are yet to be inspected, the agency said.

The PNP also asked help from other stakeholders to help in the campaign against child prostitution.

C/Insp Eugene Rebadomia, Boracay police chief, said they have no facility where children rescued from the sex trade can temporarily stay.

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