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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 7) – There are some 1,500 prostitutes in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the majority of whom can be found in the red-light district of Garapan on Saipan, according to a study conducted by Northern Marianas College students.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ population is around 70,000—more than half of whom are nonresidents.

The 55-page study, which saw the involvement of 150 respondents and 20 Northern Marianas College students, is based on interviews, surveys and research.

According to the study, Chinese, Filipinos, Russians, Koreans and locals are represented among those engaged in prostitution.

"Chinese are believed to be the largest ethnic group, making up 90 percent of the entire population of prostitutes on island. The others make up the remaining 10 percent," the study stated.

The average "service rate" is US$40, but it can go down to as low as US$25.

The study noted, however, that prostitutes prefer to charge US$100 to US$150 per customer, although with visiting military personnel, they charge US$200 to US$250, and US$300 to US$500 for Japanese customers.

Russian prostitutes are the "most expensive" — US$700-US$800 per service.

Businesses known to be fronts of prostitution in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are strip clubs, nightclubs, karaoke bars, restaurants, massage parlors and poker establishments.

The students’ findings also revealed that although prostitution may be ongoing in nearly every village on island, it is in Garapan where the majority of them can be found.

According to Samuel F. McPhetres, instructor and chairman of Northern Marianas College’s social science and fine arts department, the study’s findings are "very alarming."

The students presented their findings to the members of the zoning board on Tuesday.

McPhetres said this is the first time that students have come up with a study on prostitution.

"People are not in favor of prostitution or legalizing this business. They just want this to go away which I think will never happen," the instructor said.

The students also looked into the effect of the "flesh business" on the overall tourism performance of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

"It not only affects the tourism industry, but has an impact on families," McPhetres said.

The students said they learned that tourists, mainly Japanese, see prostitution as a disturbing problem — it does not fit a "family-oriented" destination and is in conflict with Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and federal laws.

According to the student survey, 81 percent of the respondents agree that prostitution is a problem in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; 82 percent say it has negative effect on the tourism industry; 84 percent believe that the government should take action; 70 percent agree that it will increase crime rates; and 78 percent agree that several nightclubs and massage parlors are fronts for prostitution in the CNMI.

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