Particular to the Philippines, policies such as the labor export
policy, tourism program and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
has clearly become a mode and a vehicle for sex-trafficking within
and outside the country. Marriage burueas where Filipino women leave
the country as fiancée or wives of foreigners or "mail-order
bride" is also a channel of trafficking in women.
The Philippine Government's Labor Export Policy
Before the 1970's working abroad was an individual solution to
poverty. Labor export has become widespread when the Marcos administration
adopted it as an official policy.
Today, labor export has become an instrument to lure women into
prostitution and turn the sex trade into big business. The labor
export policy entices Filipino women out of the country through
registered "recruitment agencies". There are an estimated
7-8 million Filipino workers abroad.
The Philippines remains as one of the primary labor exporters of
women as domestic helpers, entertainers and factory workers. About
60 to 80 percent or six to eight out of every ten Filipino overseas
workers are women who work as domestic helpers or entertainers.
They are found in 168 countries in seven continents. In the first
ten months of 1998, 640,054 Filipinos left the country to work abroad.
In 1998, an increase of 3.5 percent was noted in the number of domestic
helpers who left for abroad compared to the previous year.
The illegal trasnport of people have been commonly used. Potential
workers leave the country with fake documents. Illegal recruiters
and syndicates also try to bring women out of the country through
the backdoor in Western Mindanao and Palawan heading
towards Malaysia and Indonesia aboard small motor boats or pumpboats.
In some cases potential workers are smuggled out of the country
aboard international sea vessels, private airplanes and even commercial
Hence, the number of undocumented workers abroad continues to grow.
There is an estimated 80,000 undocumented workers in South Korea
aside from the 130,000 documented workers. In Japan, where Filipino
women often end up as entertainers, 35,200 are illegal in addition
to the documented 220,000.
It was reported that 22 entertainers have disappeared in Japan.
This year, five women brought to Japan as entertainers were forced
to undress and have sex with Japanese clients in front of other
customers. (Abante, July 9, 1999)
Some Filipino women working aborad are forced to sell their bodies
because of difficult situations encountered while working in foreign
lands. According to a research done by the Center for Women's Resources
(CWR) on the societal effects of migration, many undocumented Filipino
women in Saudi Arabia and those who overstay in Hongkong sell their
bodies in order to survive.
The Tourism Program
Tourism is always one of the top dollar earners for the Philippines.
In five years the dollar earning of the government from tourism
increased by 256%, from US$ 842 million in 1992 to US$ 3 billion
in 1997. The number of tourists entering the country in 1997 reached
2.2 million, up from just 1.151 million in 1992. (Term-Ender, CWR,
While the Tourism program gives income to the government, on the
other hand, it creates and expands permanent structures which makes
prostitution an enticing option for women despaired by extreme poverty.
The use of women's bodies as commodity for profit, for pleasure
and sexual satisfaction happens in brothels and sex dens. Beerhouses,
clubs, massage parlors and karaoke bars which flourish in places
intended for tourism can become and have become fronts for prostitution.
Many women fall prey to sex-trade in the course of finding a decent
job abroad. In the Philippines, a newspaper reported the story of
girl children aged 13 to 16 who ended up working as bar girls in
Nueva Ecija. They were recruited to work as salesgirls in a mall
in Cabanatuan City in Central Luzon.
The Visiting Forces Agreement
The rise in prostitution is expected with the ratification of the
Visiting force Agreement (VFA). Twenty-two ports all over the Philippines
will be sites for U.S. military exercises. Expectedly, peripheral
areas will also be rest and recreation sanctuaries of the American
forces. In the midst of extreme poverty, women from the poor and
far-flung provinces will be lured and will engage in prostitution
as a means of survival.
In 1991, a few months before the U.S. bases pulled out of the Philippines,
there were around 55,000 Filipino women and children working as
"women entertainers" in Olongapo and Angeles City alone,
the site of the two biggest US military bases.
In the 1970's at the height of the Vietnam War, 9,000 U.S. military
personnel arrive daily in Olongapo for the rest and recreation.
The presence of women has become a necessity to the American soldier
to temporarily get their mind off the atrocities of the war. (CWR
With the VFA, women and children are expected to arrive in droves
in places near the US military stations where brothels, clubs, karaoke
bars, beerhouses and massage parlors will sprout like mushrooms.
The rise in the number of Filipina mail-order brides (MOB) who
leave the country as fiancée of foreigners is also notable.
The system of mail-order bride is another instrument to traffick
women. According to the Commission on Overseas Filipinos 148,074
Filipinas left the country from 1989 to 1998 either as fiancée
or wife of foreign nationals.
Cross-cultural marriages is not the problem The problem is that
there are syndicates who use these to recruit women into prostitution.
These women end up being the sex-slaves of their supposed-husband
and/or are pimped to other men. These syndicates capitalize on the
internet and the e-mail to advertise Filipinas as "penpals"
to circumvent the law banning the system of mail-order-bride.
An alarming number of women and children have been lured into the
sex trade in their quest for a decent life abroad, becoming sex-slaves
in bars, night clubs, brothels and sex-farms instead.