Prostitution is not legal in the PH, Mr. Douglas Allen

We may have missed it because of the holiday hoopla and the circus of an Iowa caucus, but somewhere in upstate New York, an American man was saying things guaranteed to infuriate and shock many of us.

“Prostitution is a licensed activity in the Philippines.”

The statement – utterly false to begin with — came from accused sex tours promoter Douglas Allen, whose Big Apple Oriental Tours was charged with promoting prostitution in Southeast Asia. He was arrested after he reportedly arranged a sex tour for an undercover investigator. On December 27, AP reported that a Westchester County judge “dismissed an indictment accusing (Allen) of promoting prostitution.”

This legal victory emboldened Allen to once more deny the charges and make that “pious baloney” (thank you, Newt) of a declaration about prostitution being legal in the Philippines.

“Women are hired as entertainers and are allowed to go on dates,” said Allen in the AP report. “Big Apple Oriental Tours don’t make a penny from prostitution in Southeast Asia.”

While prostitution may continue to smear the reputation of the Philippines – along with corruption and a lame leadership — Allen’s statement is wrong. It is a blatant lie and something we Filipinos should constantly correct every time it’s passed from one person to another and especially through the media.

The latest tourism campaign, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” should make the effort to correct the misimpression created by statements like Allen’s. There are many ignorant people who pass on this statement lightly like it were true, and sometimes we just dismiss it because we don’t want to get into a confrontation or maybe because we don’t know how to respond.

Prostitution is a crime in the Philippines that can put flesh traffickers behind bars anywhere from several years to life. Enforcement hasn’t been as effective as it should be because the forces of poverty, corruption and just overall socio-political indifference make it difficult to address and totally eliminate the problem. And so it’s been there on the margins, largely ignored as long as it doesn’t harm the family, and that it’s a problem limited to specific regions. At least that’s how some Filipinos think.

But at a time when the tourism department is trying to entice foreigners to come visit the sprawling malls, the sandy beaches and the scintillating sunset, Allen’s words don’t help. The thought of prostitutes lurking at every bar and café of the country’s 7,000-plus islands does not bode well for family outing vibe. Can the Japanese wife, for example, trust her husband to be left behind in the hotel while she’s out shopping in Makati? I’m guessing she’d veto Manila as a destination and suggest, say, Kuala Lumpur instead.

The tourism campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is a good opportunity to educate the world about Filipinos and how we are not a country of prostitutes – women or child. How we may be “ebullient and fun-loving” per Lonely Planet, but also helpful, smart and will go out of our way to make visitors feel welcome and appreciated. We genuinely love visitors, especially foreigners. We will gladly invite them to share a glass of halo-halo, view Imelda’s generous shoe collection, take them to the nearest town fiesta with the parade of roasted pigs or suggest to them a horse-carriage ‘calesa’ tour of Manila.

The Philippines offers so many unique attractions. Sex tours are rare, and Douglas Allen’s business may have been hurt in the 10 years he has been fighting the charges in court. His website is still operating as a regular travel agency arranging tours to the Philippines, but women are no longer part of the package. — Cristina DC Pastor


  1. […] the New York-based Filipino-American magazine “The FilAm,” journalist Cristina Pastor said, while people were busy with all the “holiday […]

  2. Norman Barabash wrote:

    As Douglas Allen’s former partner, I wish to categorically state that he was misquoted by reporter Rebecca Baker of Gannett News (not the AP as you report). He has long known that prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, but she put her own spin on his words without putting quotation marks on them. You description of heavy penalties refers to human trafficking, which is a completely different offense than prostitution. (Indeed, the attempt by the Westchester District Attorney to link Mr. Allen to human trafficking without presenting a shred of evidence before the grand jury was a principal cause of the dismissal of his indictment.)
    For the record, prostitution is defined by Article 202 of Philippine National Law as the habitual indulgence in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct for money or profit by women who are vagrants having no visible means of support and no known lawful employment who walk the streets or wander the countryside for no justifyable purpose. In the more than 20 years Big Apple Oriental Tours has been in business, neither he nor I nor any provider of travel services for our customers in the Philippines knowingly had any contact with such women. Instead, our travel service providers were under strict orders to obey to the letter not only the national law, but also the laws and regulations of every province and municipality in which we did business.
    If the article makes you angry, please vent your ire at Rebecca Baker, whose ignorance, provincialism and bias led her to put words in Mr. Allen’s mouth.

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