Are we seeing the beginning of the end for the Philippines sex industry with the rise in arrests for anti-trafficking?
I have seen several points of view when it comes to the sex industry and generally the workers involved are happy go lucky people but is it down to the fact they have no choice? withdrawing into themselves? I don’t know I am not an expert or trying to be. Talking with workers previously many are funding brothers and sisters educations as well as keeping the family afloat. They have no other path to turn to as sex workers earn more than bank managers here in many cases. Often forced into the trade by relatives or as a last resort for themselves.
I am seeing a lot more activity from the Police in the Philippines which has seen a huge increase in arrests and several being high profile. The webcam guys in Mindanao and currently the warrant for the arrest of a Northern Ireland ex police officer believed to be the owner of several bikini bars in Angeles city which is natorious for the sex industry.
Talking with sex workers you find they are normal people and would prefer to be doing something else but stuck in a poverty cycle or forced by family to work in the industry. Either way if there was another option they wouldn’t think twice about taking it.
On the other hand I have had abusive emails and messages from people that use the sex industry that will state they are “helping” the economy and that they are not doing anything wrong. The phrase that often comes up is “this is the Philippines”, is that acceptable to Filipinos out there for the term to be used in this way?
At the same time wanting me to mind my own business and go about what they are doing as they cannot see an issue with it at the same hand don’t really want me following them round either. When talking about the Americans using the Philippines for R+R previously its commonly seen as helping the local economy out as well and that they are helping people that would go hungry otherwise.
Big question is why are only foreigners being targeted, I know the government see it as a foreigner problem and if there was no foreigners it wouldn’t exist but that isn’t true. Even sitting walking local television I see from time to time news about child prostitutes being used by local men or the initative that was taken in Talisay, Cebu to deal with child prostitutes selling themselves for less than £1.00 or less than $1.00 take your pick it wasn’t much!
In reality many of the buildings these establishments operate from are owned by Filipinos (as they have to be foreigners can’t own them) or in some cases operated by Filipinos and people in positions of government. You only have to mention certain names to a taxi driver and they will tell you that X club is owned by a mayor, previous mayor or some other politician. Its an industry that is no doubt worth hundreds of millions if not billions when you start to tie in shipping people off abroad as sex slaves and other types of illegal workers. This network cannot exist without powerful assistance locally.
What do I think?
I think if the Philippines started heavy enforcements today it would struggle to stop the industry as political intervention would slow things down, its a political game at the same time the industry taints the country abroad especially in the Cyber cam sector where it reaches an international market straight to home computers. I can understand all sides of the industry existing and its difficult to blame one sector for the problem as a country full of jobs as the Philippines used to be as the rising star of Asia maybe this problem would have fizzled out. But instead the country doesn’t seem to be advancing at the same rate as China, Malaysia or Singapore a bit of a stall has happened and I wonder what will be needed to jolt it forward.
The strong force being used against the sex industry is not Filipino made either as pressure is being added from the U.S. for the Philippines to clean up its act or face sanctions. Is this the U.S. taking the moral high ground? If it is and can keep the pressure up I hope it can change the Philippines for the better. Stronger trade links are needed outside the country and more importantly freeing up foreigner investment and heavily cutting corruption.
Would also like to thank Steven Black for the Photograph.