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Say sorry or pack up, US envoy told over sex remark

Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas troops the line of the palace honor guards in this file photo. EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER

Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas troops the line of the palace honor guards in this file photo. EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER

Show proof or ship out.

Livid senators in interviews with the Philippine Daily Inquirer Wednesday wanted US Ambassador Harry Thomas to produce evidence that 40 percent of male tourists come to the Philippines for sex.

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Senator Panfilo Lacson raised the possibility that Thomas was misquoted in his report on sex tourism that came out last week.

“He should at least clarify if he was misquoted by media,” Lacson said. “Otherwise he should apologize to the Filipino people or pack his bags and go home for being tactless, offensive and undiplomatic.”

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Franklin Drilon challenged the ambassador to show proof that he was correct.

“We dispute that statement, I certainly have not been shown the basis for that data. We challenge its correctness,” Drilon said.

Also sex in US

American males coming to the Philippines to satisfy their carnal desires is a reality, Enrile said.

“However, I don’t think the statistics are correct,” he added.

“We are not denying that there are American men who come to the Philippines to enjoy their life because Filipinas are attractive,” Enrile explained.

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“There are also many foreigners going to America to have sex with American girls and boys. It works both ways. Even Filipinos go there to enjoy the beauty of American women.”

Still, Enrile asked Thomas to reconsider his disclosure.

“If I were Ambassador Thomas, I would think about what I had just said. If we say the same thing about his country, he would feel insulted,” he said.

Earlier, Senator Francis Escudero protested the timing of Thomas’ statement, noting it coincided with President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to the United States.

Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on women and youth, in a privilege speech reprimanded Malacañang for downplaying Thomas’ claim instead of responding to it.

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, who was in the Senate Wednesday, said “pertinent” agencies were already engaged in implementing antitrafficking and other related laws.

Soliman said the Philippines had been taken out of the Tier 2 category for countries that had not fully complied with antihuman trafficking laws.

Last week, Thomas told a forum of Filipino judges and officials that corrupt officials were involved in a very visible sex trade, and challenged the legal profession to eliminate the “scourge”.

“We know that 40 percent of foreign men who come to the Philippines, including from the US, come for sexual tourism. That is not something I’m proud of. That’s not something you should be proud of,” Thomas said.

He highlighted a high profile string of karaoke bars and clubs along Roxas Boulevard, one of Manila’s main roads on which the US embassy is also located, alleging they were infamous sex establishments.

Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, Asia’s Roman Catholic outpost, but the sex trade flourishes openly in many urban areas, including Manila.

The ambassador’s statements come amid Philippine government attempts to revitalize the country’s tourism industry, which for years has lagged behind other Asian countries.

The Philippines recorded an all-time high of 3.52 million visitors last year and the government is aiming for tourist arrivals of six million by 2016. With Agence France-Presse

Originally posted at 03:08  pm | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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TAGS: Foreign affairs, Harry Thomas, sex, sex trade, Tourism
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