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Palace: Case closed on envoy’s remark

/ 04:01 AM October 09, 2011

Malacañang will no longer make a diplomatic issue out of the US Ambassador Harry Thomas’ remark that four out of 10 foreign male tourists come to the Philippines for the sex tour.

The government now considers it “a closed case,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda after Thomas expressed his regrets to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and admitted that his figure didn’t have a leg to stand on.

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“We consider this a closed case but our fight against trafficking continues. We will continue to prosecute those who would take advantage of our people and our young ones,” said Lacierda over government-run radio dzRB.

“I think the statement of the ambassador shows clearly that he was not able to back it up with statistics. Hence, he has apologized to Secretary Del Rosario and to our government,” he added.

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Lacierda earlier said the administration wanted to know where Thomas had gotten his figure since the Department of Justice denied providing the statistics that might have been the basis for the envoy’s remarks on Philippine tourism.

Del Rosario disclosed on Friday that Thomas had expressed regret over his comment on the number of foreign males who come the country for sex.

Del Rosario sent the Inquirer a copy of Thomas’ message, which said: “I am sending you a response expressing regret for my comments. I should not have used the 40-percent statistic without the ability to back it up. I regret any harm that I may have caused.”

Thomas also sent the same apology via text to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, adding that a formal letter would follow.

Del Rosario said Thomas’ message to him was “very straightforward” and the ambassador was clearly “looking for closure” to the controversy that his remarks caused.

The foreign secretary also said that Thomas “has been closely working with the Philippine government in addressing the grave challenge of human trafficking in our country.”

The US Congress ties its foreign aid to a country’s track record in fighting human trafficking. Governments face a cut-off of US assistance if they are found to be unresponsive in fighting trafficking.

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The Philippines was only removed from the US human trafficking watch list last July. It was moved to the so-called Tier 2, which means that it still does not fully meet standards on human trafficking but is making efforts to do so.

In the region, Singapore and Laos were also upgraded from the Tier 3 watch list to Tier 2. Indonesia and Cambodia remained at Tier 2, but Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam remained on the watch list. The only Asian countries in Tier 1, meaning full compliance, were South Korea and Taiwan.With a report from Philip Tubeza

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TAGS: apologies, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Sex tourism, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr.
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