US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr.
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 5, 2011) – Filipino lawmakers just won’t let go of US Ambassador Harry Thomas' declaration that four in 10 male foreign tourists, including Americans, who travel to the Philippines only seek to engage in sexual activity.
A day after Sen. Francis Escudero challenged Thomas to either back up with proof or withdraw his claim; another member of Congress said the US envoy’s statement does not bode well for Philippine efforts to fight the predominantly sexually transmitted human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
“If we are to believe the US ambassador’s claim, then last year alone, the Philippines received approximately 915,000 male foreign tourists, including 156,000 Americans, who all potentially came here intent on sexual activity,” Congressman Arnel Ty said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
“The figures imply a whole lot of male visitors looking for sexual activity. Offhand, this does not augur well for our drive to control the spread of HIV,” Ty said, citing statistics by the Department of Tourism (DOT) which indicated that a total 3,520,471 foreigners, including 600,165 Americans, arrived in the Philippines in 2010.
He said from January to July this year, a total of 2,280,184 foreigners, including 390,028 Americans, arrived in the country.
While the DOT statistics did not specify the gender divide of the arrivals, Ty said that based on historical figures, males comprise an average of 65 percent of all foreigners who visit the country every year.
“What is perhaps more worrisome is that many male foreign tourists come from Western countries that, when compared to the Philippines, have much livelier commercial sex industries, which are potential AIDS hotspots,” Ty said.
“There are also claims that many male foreign tourists who travel to Manila tend to visit other Southeast Asian countries that, again when compared to the Philippines, have more active and riskier sex trades from an AIDS control perspective,” he added.
Ty has been pushing for highly aggressive measures to suppress HIV and improve the welfare of the growing number of Filipinos living with the virus that causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Only recently, Ty and four of his colleagues filed a bill seeking to add more teeth to the country’s 13-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law, which they said has been rendered outmoded by the changing times and the rapid expansion of the contagious disease that ravages the body’s immune system.
Nine in 10 new HIV cases passively diagnosed in the Philippines were infected as a result of risky or unprotected sexual contact. In July alone, a record-high of seven new HIV cases every day were detected in the country.
Next to South Korea, America is the Philippines’ second biggest supplier of foreign tourists. Other countries providing large numbers of visitors to the Philippines are Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Germany.