US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. has conveyed his apology to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for his previous comment that 40 percent of male tourists visiting the Philippines do so for sex tourism, according to a report by Philippine Star.
The American diplomat, who made his comment during a forum on human trafficking, caught the ire of some politicians who felt offended by a frank statement from a foreign dignitary. Although sex trade is tolerated in night districts in Manila, Cebu, Davao and other major cities in the country, the government insists that prostitution is illegal here.
Secretary Del Rosario claimed that he received a text message from Ambassador Thomas who expressed regret over his statement that should not have been made without supporting data. “I am sending you a response expressing regret for my comments. I should not have used the 40 percent statistics without the ability to back it up,” the American diplomat was quoted as saying. “I regret any harm that I may have caused.”
The fact is neither the government nor the travel agencies can count the number of tourists going to the country for sex. In the past, as many as 80 percent of Japanese tourists in the Philippines were male with ages more than 30 years. That number has gone down in recent years, and Japan is no longer the prime source of visitors in the country.
Visitors from Korea, China and Hong Kong are now coming in large groups or families, and they cite beaches and shopping malls as the biggest draw of the Philippines. Many establishments continue to offer sex trade, and Ambassador Thomas was speaking about the need to strengthen the anti-trafficking law for more convictions and prosecution of foreigners, including Americans, involved. Sadly, his intention was heard with a different tone.
A political analyst said that Filipino politicians are in a state of denial. "Instead of being indignant at US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. for exposing the pestering social problem of sex tourism, we should be indignant against the hypocrisy and blindness of those who try to cover it up with flimsy explanations of protecting our dignity, good image, or national sovereignty."