Children in Boracay still vulnerable to sexual exploitation

Child safety watchdog ECPAT Philippines urges Malay officials to ensure that ‘child protection mechanisms are in place and functioning’ when Boracay reopens to tourists on October 26

Published 12:53 PM, October 07, 2018

Updated 4:48 PM, October 07, 2018

BORACAY SUNSET. Children watch the sunset in famed Boracay island. Children in tourist destinations are vulnerable to child sex tourism. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

BORACAY SUNSET. Children watch the sunset in famed Boracay island. Children in tourist destinations are vulnerable to child sex tourism. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

AKLAN, Philippines – Even with limited tourist arrivals in Boracay, children on the island would still be vulnerable to sexual exploitation, a child safety watchdog said.

End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) Philippines made the statement ahead of Boracay’s October 26 reopening to tourists.

“The island is a tourist destination in the Philippines, and wherever there is a high influx of tourists, children are vulnerable. Limiting of tourist arrivals does not guarantee the elimination of SECTT (sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism) as sex tourists may still be able to enter the island,” the group stressed.

In a study on the island’s carrying capacity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources stressed that Boracay can only support 19,125 tourists on any given day.

ECPAT Philippines, which works mainly against the sexual exploitation of children, prevention, and on children and youth empowerment and victim rehabilitation, has no exact extent of the sexual exploitation of children in in Boracay but there had been recorded cases.

“Anecdotal evidence also suggests that tourists ask community members how to procure sexual services from the children. This is unacceptable. We always say that with just one reported case of SECTT, hundreds more go unreported. One child is too many,” ECPAT said.

It said that “key to eliminating SECTT is ensuring that child protection mechanisms are in place and functioning, that the local ordinance is implemented, that families, children and the communities are empowered and vigilant to protect themselves.”

In January, ECPAT successfully lobbied for the enactment of a Tourism Child Protection Ordinance in Malay town in this province, which requires tourism establishments to implement a child protection policy to ensure that children won’t be exploited in their businesses.

Before the Boracay reopening, ECPAT conducted a series of child-safe and protection education sessions for community leaders, tourism workers such as tour photographers, massage therapists, drivers, tour coordinators, boatmen, sail boat operators, and members of the Aklan port-based Anti-Trafficking task force.

The group also conducted capacity building trainings for young people so they can plan and implement their own awareness-raising programs.

“These young people are now part of ECPAT Children and Youth Advocates (EYCA) which also has members in Quezon City, Angeles City and Bohol. We put high value on the empowerment of children to assert their protection and participation rights,” ECPAT said.

ECPAT, which started as a regional initiative, has a network spanning 65 countries. – Rappler.com

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