Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, it thrives in parts of the capital, Manila, that are popular with tourists.
Harry Thomas Jr, the US ambassador to the Philippines, recently sparked controversy when he told a forum of judges and government officials that 40 per cent of male tourists visit the country for the purpose of sex tourism.
He later apologised, expressing regret for his comments and acknowledging that he could not back up the 40 per cent statistic. The presidential office has accepted the apology and says it considers the matter to be closed.
But activists who have been campaigning against the sex tourism industry are disappointed that the wider issue has not been more openly discussed.
Who is to blame for the practice of sex tourism - is it the host countries or the tourists themselves? And what are the limits of ambassadorial speech?
Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Amihan Abueva, the regional coordinator for Asia Against Child Trafficking; Mark Thompson, a professor of politics and the director of the Southeast Asia Study Center at City University of Hong Kong; and Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International.