Alert Up

By: Izobelle T. Pulgo, Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Nestle L. Semilla, Norman V. Mendoza March 05,2017 - 10:51 PM
ISLAND NIGHT LIFE:  Lapu-Lapu City and the Marcelo Fernan Bridge at night from across the Mactan Channel in this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2017.

ISLAND NIGHT LIFE: Lapu-Lapu City and the Marcelo Fernan Bridge at night from across the Mactan Channel in this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2017.


9 South Koreans caught in the sex tour may also face charges in their home country

Tourism industry leaders, local government officials and enforcement agencies in Cebu have raised an alert over the sex tours happening here, amid heavy promotion to make the mainland, Mactan Island and its smaller tourism-oriented islands wholesome tourist destinations.

As local authorities, particularly those in Lapu-Lapu City, try to put an end to this unsavory tour packages, they warned tourists that not only the promoters will get punished but also those who patronize sex tours who, when caught, will face jail time, just like the nine South Korean tourists nabbed with their young Cebuana partners in a resort hotel in Lapu-Lapu City on Saturday.

Moreover, in the case of the nine South Koreans, they will not only face charges in the Philippines but also likely in their home country for violating the laws of their host country, according to Consul Lee Yong Sang, the police attache of the Korean Consulate in Cebu.

“On this case, as action measures, we will report those Korean suspects to the national police agency and prosecutor’s office in Korea and have them take proper action against the suspects,” Lee told Cebu Daily News.

He added that the Korean Consulate has been coordinating with security enforcement agencies in Cebu.

The nine Korean nationals arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) came to Cebu after they booked online a sex tour package, which paired them with Cebuanas aged between 19 and 21 years old.

The sex tours peddled online are in Korean and being offered by a group of Cebu-based Koreans to their male compatriots.

For a fee equivalent to P250,000, those who sign on to the tour will get round-trip tickets, accommodation in posh hotels, chance to see the sights and the nightlife of Cebu and more importantly, in the company of young female sex escorts.



Historic resort city

Lapu-Lapu City Acting Vice Mayor Harry Radaza, who also chairs the city council’s committee on tourism, said the report was alarming as it might put to naught the city government’s effort to brand Lapu-Lapu as a “historic resort city.”

He said he will ask for a meeting with Acting Mayor Marcial Ycong, the city council’s committee on youth chairperson Councilor Melissa Vidal, City Tourism Officer Hember Mendoza, Association of Barangay Council president Jose Dungog, and other concerned officials for a concerted action against sex tourism.

For one, he said, the city could enact a law that would require hotels and resorts to report any suspected sex tour activity in their establishments.

He said if the staff of hotels and resorts will see minors or a group of young Filipinas accompanying a group of tourists checking into their establishments, they must report it immediately to authorities since “it’s very obvious what they are up to.”

“This matter is important. A thorough discussion between us, officials, should be made. Kinahanglan gyud (This is needed) specially we are branding Lapu-Lapu City as ‘historic resort city’. We are banking on our tourism and we really have to address this issue,” Radaza said.

Wholesome image

As the “Queen City of the South,” the image of Cebu — with its pristine white beaches, breathtaking coral reefs, colorful festivals, and stunning dive spots as well as a growing number of world-class resorts and hotels all over the island — cannot be tainted by sex tour packages, stressed Edilberto Mendoza, president of Cebu Association of Tour Operators (Cato).

“This is very alarming considering that Cebu’s image in the tourism industry has always been good and clean,” he said. “We are never known as a sexual tourism destination.”

Mendoza said closer coordination between the local government units and the proper authorities is necessary in order to arrest those who are responsible for engaging in sex tourism.

Three other Korean nationals only identified as Choi, Andy and Kim as well as their local contact Maribeth Bontog are facing qualified trafficking charges for recruiting the women that accompanied the Korean tourists when they were apprehended. The four, however, remain at large.

“Our government really has to coordinate with the authorities and apprehend whoever is responsible for this illegal activity,” Mendoza said. “We have to act on this ASAP (as soon as possible).”

Mendoza also urged other tour operators to conduct a thorough background check on all tourists who expressed interest and want to avail of their services.

Data gathered by the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) from accommodation establishments in the region showed that of the 626,364 South Koreans who visited the region from January to September last year, 593,946 came to Cebu.

At the national level, the DOT was able to record a total of 1.47 million Korean arrivals in the country for 2016, the highest among the number of tourist visitor arrivals for last year.

Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Boboi Costas, for his part, said it was alarming and saddening to hear about “sex tourism” taking place in Cebu, although the practice is admittedly a global issue.

But Costas believed sex tourism can be prevented if the different sectors in the tourism industry, the LGUs and authorities would take a collaborative stance against the issue

Costas, like Radaza, also believed hotel personnel should not hesitate in reporting to authorities anything that they see suspicious among their guests.

Online surveillance and monitoring, Costas said, should likewise be intensified in order to intercept online activities promoting activities like sex tourism.

LGUs, Costas added, could also initiate their own measures to fight sex tourism by monitoring the resorts, hotels, pension houses, and other tourist establishments in their areas to determine whether these places are conducting legitimate business and not tolerating prohibited activities like prostitution as well as reaching out to Korean associations for coordination.


Meanwhile, NBI-7 director Patricio Bernales said the nine Koreans arrested will undergo inquest proceedings today.

They were identified as Jongnam Ham, Munsu Lee, Joontae Kim, Dongkil Kim, Jong In Han, Hosik Park, Jae Gyu Kim, Namgyun Shin and Byeonghae Park — all in their 40s and 50s.

Bernales said they will also file cases against the four sex tour operators even if they remained at large.

The suspects violated Section 11 of Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which prohibits anyone from “engaging the services of a trafficked person.”

NBI-7 special investigator Arnel Pura told CDN that the young women involved in the sex tour trade were mostly from Mandaue City, composed of students and out-of-school youth.

Consul Lee said they have been conducting monitoring on these activities being perpetrated by some South Korean nationals in Cebu.

“Of course we also have been conducting a monitoring of such a kind of concern. The monitorings are conducted as preventive measures and action measures,” he said.

In fact, this was not the first time that an incident of this nature happened involving Korean nationals in Cebu.

He said a similar case happened two years ago, which led to the arrest of four Korean nationals who are now still detained at the Cebu City Jail pending resolution of the cases against them.

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TAGS: alert, caught, Cebu, city, country, home, koreans, lapu-lapu, sex, tours, UP

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