Child sex trade plagues Filipino resort
But town relies on tourism
Editor's note: The first World Congress Against Commercial
Sexual Exploitation of Children ended Saturday in Stockholm,
August 31, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT)
From Correspondent Maria Ressa
PAGSANJAN, Philippines (CNN) -- The town of Pagsanjan is
known for its towering cliffs and waterfalls. The lush
scenery once made it a popular spot for directors filming movies
such as "Apocalypse Now." But the resort has acquired a
reputation that is attracting a different kind of tourist
seeking a different kind of industry -- child prostitution.
A decade ago, Pagsanjan, located about 60 miles south of
Manila, became known as a popular location for men seeking
"In the '80s, Pagsanjan was declared by international gay
publications as a paradise for them, a gay paradise, a haven
for homosexuals," said Dr. Sonia Zaide, an activist who is
particularly concerned by the expansion of the town's sex
trade to include minors, mostly young boys.
Paradise for pedophiles
Pagsanjan began to attract an increasing number of
pedophiles. One ad in a popular international gay magazine
urges readers to visit the town, promising they can "shoot
the rapids by day and shoot the boys at night."
Local pimps said tourists increasingly ask them to procure
"At the beginning, I didn't care what anyone thought," said a
former pimp who asked to be identified only as Ben.
He said he told himself, "I wasn't doing anything wrong to
anyone but, in the end, I realized what I was doing was
against God and that I was bringing these children to harm."
When the Filipino government began a crackdown on the child
sex industry in Pagsanjan, 23 people of varying nationalities
In the home of a U.S. national, one of those arrested, police
found dozens of pornographic pictures of children and 600
index cards. Each card had the name and address of a child
-- most of them boys -- along with graphic descriptions of
the child's sexual organs, the sexual acts performed by the
youngster, fees and the dates of each encounter.
"The evidence proved that the exploitation was tremendous,"
said Ronnie Velasco of the Council for the Protection of
The government began a push to deport international visitors
who came to the Philippines in search of the child sex trade.
But in Pagsanjan, the crackdown posed a dilemma for local
Once the town acquired a reputation as a tropical paradise
for pedophiles, other tourists began to avoid it.
Tourism had been the main source of income for local
officials and townspeople, many of whom were reluctant to
discourage those tourists still flocking to the town -- those
in search of child prostitutes.
"Because of the level of poverty still prevailing in the town
and the decline of the tourist industry, many families here
are still consenting to be victims," Zaide said. "And so the
moral decadence that settled on the town is still with us."
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
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