Senators want US envoy to explain sex tourism figures

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 29 2011 05:21 PM | Updated as of Sep 30 2011 06:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Vicente Sotto have asked US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas to explain his comments that 40% of male tourists in the Philippines come for the sex.

This comes a week after Thomas made the comment before a workshop of justices of the Court of Appeals.

In that workshop, Thomas said, "I estimate that maybe up to 40 percent of foreign men who come here come for sexual tourism and that is unacceptable."

Thomas also called for the prosecution of Americans caught in crimes with children or cyber sex in the Philippines. He said he also told the Aquino administration that the US will assist in the prosecution of offenders as well as the rescue of victims.

In response, Sotto said: " I don't know where he got his statistics mahirap personal estimate he can come up (with anything) Prublema ko with stats...we don't know where it's coming from. I think there's move in the Senate to find out more…As a matter of fact we should treat it with grain of salt."

Enrile said he won't ask that Thomas appear before the Senate, only that Thomas should give more details. "That's why I was asking if he could educate us to clarify where that number came from. I don't know whether he said it. If he said it we would like to know."

However, Enrile did not appear to dispute Thomas' claim.

"We cannot deny the fact that people come here for certain reasons to see the place or to enjoy themselves. In the same way even our nationals will go to their country to do same thing but to make statement, the exactitude 40 percent...why 40 percent?"

The US Embassy, for its part, said: "The US Embassy has no comment on the comment(s) on the '40%' statement."

Press Attache Tina Malone added: " We have responded to queries about the basis for the Ambassador's statements during his speech to appellate court judges last week, by clarifying that they reflect U.S. government estimates based on the work of U.S. officials working with the Philippine authorities to close clubs that cater to pedophiles."