CNMI, PHILIPPINES BOILING OVER UK TABLOID

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 22) - The "biggest prostitution center in Asia" outside Bangkok and Manila. The "prostitution capital of the world." A "notorious sex island."

These and more is Saipan, according to Daily Sport, a London-based tabloid, in a story last year regarding the visit of the Irish soccer team titled "World Cup Squad Goes to Sex Island."

CNMI and Philippine officials, however, are not amused.

Variety learned that Daily Sport is a soft porn daily newspaper widely read in the United Kingdom.

According to its report, "many" Filipinos on Saipan "sell their bodies at night and work in factories making clothes for next-to-nothing during the day."

Philippine Consul-General Julia C. Heidemann informed Gov. Juan N. Babauta about the Daily Sport report last Jan. 13.

The story was carried by the Philippine Daily Inquirer Dec. 23.

Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente yesterday said the Daily Sport report "is false and baseless."

"I guess that is the kind of stuff they have in their tabloids," Benavenete told Variety.

Heidemann, in a letter to Babauta, said "the allegations vexed me as they were unfair, irritating and even malicious."

She added, "It offended the Filipino contract workers as much as it did the CNMI. I vehemently denied the allegations. After the clarification, Philippine lawmakers were appeased somehow."

The governor’s Special Assistant for Regional and Political Affairs Bertha C. Leon Guerrero said the article was "abrasive and unfair."

According to Daily Sport, Saipan "advertises itself as a sex-tour destination and women from as far as Russia are employed in (its) flourishing brothels."

Human rights activists have "exposed the place" as a "center for forced prostitution," Daily Sport said.

It described Garapan district as a "string of sleazy night clubs and karaoke bars frequented by wealthy Japanese businessmen, American sailors and local government officials."

According to Daily Sport, "women are told they are going to Saipan to work as waitresses or maids, but once they arrive they are told they will have to sell their bodies for sex. To repay the cost of transporting them to the island, the women are forced into prostitution to raise the cash. If they do not cooperate they are threatened with deportation and even death."

January 22, 2003

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety. 

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