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Monday, February 15, 2010

DOT advocates prevention versus sex tourism

Amid clamors for the creation of new resolutions on child sex tourism (CST), the Department of Tourism (DOT) is urging concerned sectors to give similar importance to prevention to curb conditions where child exploitation can occur.

“Addressing this issue begins with imposing stronger preventive measures, which include public vigilance and the practice of ethical tourism with respect to the rights of children,” said Ace Durano, Secretary of Tourism.

Efforts on CST prevention have been ongoing through awareness and training programs for the public and private sector conducted by the DOT in partnership with ChildWise Australia, a protection charity against child abuse in Australia, Asia and the Pacific, and ECPAT or End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes.

These awareness programs are regularly conducted all over the country by selected DOT personnel. They aim to educate and train the private sector, such as hotels, resorts, tour operators, and transportation companies among others, on child sex tourism and child sensitivity practices.

According to Durano, the campaign further highlights the need for prevention by encouraging tourism establishments to adopt child-friendly policies.

“This global problem is best addressed with the help of the private sector. We urge them to instill their own guiding principles, and send a clear message to their clients that they condemn such illegal activities,” added Durano.

Aside from vigilance, the training program also lists down reasons why tourism establishments should turn away and report guests who solicit unlawful acts.

“Allowing sex tourism to propagate in their places would only result in damaging the image of their destination. Therefore, legitimate paying tourists who come in droves to their area will choose to go to unsullied sites,” said Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Planning and Promotions.

Child sex tourism further reduces tourism jobs and the standard of living in affected destinations, according to the program which the DOT drafted with the help of ChildWise and ECPAT.

Another significant element of the campaign is the distribution of promotional materials against child sex tourism.

Attorney Victoria Jasmin, DOT Director of Office of Tourism Standards, said, “With the help of our partners, we have also launched several publicity aids on the issue which have been disseminated in airports, hotels, immigration centers, and other tourism channels. These posters and stickers remind the public to turn in or report suspicious characters to the authorities.”

The new arrival and departure cards also carry the same stern warning against possible sex offenders, with contact numbers of authorities provided.

Child sex tourism comes in three forms, which are child trafficking, child pornography and child prostitution.

In the 2009 Global Monitoring Report on Child Trafficking of ECPAT in partnership with BodyShop International, the Philippines fell on the category of “Some Progress” which is second to the top category in terms of the country’s efforts in combating the said issue. Other categories included “Slow Progress,” “Limited Measures” and the highest category, “Notable Efforts.” The report further included the country’s 2003 Anti-Trafficking Act which was noted as having one of the harshest penalties for child traffickers in the world.

The Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act of 1992 which was amended in 2003, is another existing law which outlines abuses to children and their corresponding penalties.

Early last year, a high-profile Australian doctor working for the World Health Organization was arrested for committing sexual acts to a minor in a public parking area. He is currently serving his term in jail. Several cases against foreign residents and tourists have likewise been filed, with some offenders serving their term in the Philippines while others were indicted in their own country.

While the ECPAT report cites the quality of Philippine laws regarding child trafficking, it also underlines the need for more child rehabilitation programs and the need for a comprehensive data-gathering system to profile offenders and victims.

The DOT is also working closely with other government units such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the proper implementation of laws against CST.
Azrael Coladilla is the blogger and founder of Azrael's Merryland Blog. This blog started as a personal blog in 2003, and then converted the blog into a lifeblog about his interest and reporting about pop culture, lifestyle, entertainment, technology, food, travel, toys, outdoor adventure, internet and social media. Awarded as the 2009 Most Influential Blogger for Luzon, Philippines, awarded by the Philippine Blog Awards. He is the founder of several online communities - Manila Bloggers Network, Philippine Bloggers Network, Oh My Food! community, Cavite Bloggers, Travel and Blog Community, and Philippine ToyCon. Azrael's Merryland Blog is included in a list of top 50 Blogs in the Philippines , ranked 65th in Top 100 Blogs that Matter , 49 must read lifestyle blog in the Philippines. and rank 40th in 100 Top Philippine Blogs by Feedspot.
He loves to travel, explore, discover, eat new food, document and record his life, meet new people, do photography and collect Transformers toys.
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