Thursday, September 15, 2011

Prostitution in the Philippines

Prostitution is  illegal. Women working in the bars have to be registered and are required to undergo frequent health checks. Recently, the government has announced measures to battle the country's child prostitution and sex tourist image.

Bar girls have to be at least 18, are issued ID tags as GRO’s (Guest Relations Officers – how creative!). They are required to have weekly health checkups for STDs and monthly be tested for HIV. Many of the bargirls/dancers wear their ID tags around their necks. A nice women cab driver in Manila, who used to live in Angeles, confirmed the health check requirements are both in Angeles and Manila.

Local cities enforce GRO laws differently and within a city payoffs may be common. One story claims Vixens in Pasay was closed after the 1998 elections when they refused to pay the new mayor P3million to stay open. They closed and a new owner reopened it as Axions. These political payoffs are just part of doing business as I later discuss based on newspaper articles I read while in Manila.

Barfines are technically illegal. Instead a bar may charge you 10 ladies drinks to compensate the bar for taking the girl for the evening. I was charged lady drink prices that ranged from about P125 ($US 3.29) to P265 ($US 6.99) depending on location. Often I had the company of an attractive young lady for an hour or more on one lady drink. The prices were the cheapest in Angeles with Makati being the most expensive.

The term barfine was used in the bars however when I was there in April 1999. In Angeles City I paid barfines of about P950 ($US25) and only bought one lady drink for the women I took out for the night. Some Angeles bars have much lower barfines.

The women in the bars can decide whether or not to be barfined by a customer. A barfine is a fine you pay to the bar for lost lady drink fees to allow the girl to leave the club early and spend the rest of the evening with you. Barfining a girl is for companionship and is not a payment for sex. Consenting adults certainly can share sexually, but that is not what the barfine is for.

Typically a small tip for her companionship the next morning is given to the girl as she leaves your room. The Angeles bargirl also gets about 50% of the barfine and 25-30% of lady drinks. In Manila the girl doesn’t get any of the barfine and you negotiate a separate companion fee, which typically ranges from about P1000 ($26) in Pasay to a high P3000 ($US 79) in Makati.

The popular Cotton Club in the EDSA Entertainment Complex in Pasay had a sign hung on the door "Closed by the mayor" From girls I talked to they said it was because they were caught charging barfines. But all the other clubs in the Complex do also. It was suggested perhaps Cotton Club didn’t pay off the officials enough.

In April 1997 there was a big crackdown by closing numerous nightclubs by the police. The crackdown was stimulated by numerous articles in the national newspapers about Internet Websites promoting Angeles City as a "Sex Capital" and some sites actually promoting "sex tours" to Angeles.

Local clubs in downtown Angeles that did not cater to foreign tourists were raided and closed in 1997. This was a maze of houses and brothels where young women, often under the required age 18, were often kept against their will.

As Kabayo in the asfo private E-mail list said: "This area is called 'The Area', and is only a bit cheaper than Santos Street, full of marginal girls of all ages, many young enough to put you away. They do not get health checkups, are unlicensed (so you cannot protest your arrest by saying that the gov't had approved their proof of age), and it is said to be unsafe for foreigners. I think it is all back to business as usual, except when the newspapers are on a crusade."

In the tourist area, such as along Fields Avenue, they shut down clubs found to be conducting lewd shows (nudity or sexual exposure), employing underage girls, or employing unlicensed Guest Relations Officers. The clubs now are careful not to expose those dirty sexy body parts that seems so offensive to certain people. Small bikinis were common.

The city Mayor, Edgardo Pamintuan, takes a realistic approach to cleaning up the image of Angeles City. He said the problem of sexual exploitation of women and children in Angeles City "must be taken within social and economic contexts, and to some degree, political. The lack of opportunities in other depressed areas in the country leads women to seek greener pastures in other urban areas such as Angeles." Pamintuan said. "Many of these opportunity seekers, for want of any other option, end up in the flesh trade."

As long as the nightclubs operate in compliance with the rules established by the Angeles City Mayor's Office and the ordinances of the Angeles City Council there has been no problem as far as I’ve been able to research.



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