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Robin Cook seals the agreement in Manila

Britain to Take Action Against Sex Tourists

Britain and the Philippines have agreed to take joint action against so-called sex tourists who abuse children.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who's visiting the Philippines' capital, Manila, on the latest stage of his tour of south-east Asia, has signed an agreement for the two countries to exchange information on known or suspected paedophiles.

Mr Cook said "the sexual abuse of children is an unforgivable crime", and the British and Philippine governments are now to act together against British paedophiles who visit the Philippines.

The problem is particularly acute because of the tens of thousands of street children in the Philippines who are especially vulnerable to paedophiles.

The Foreign Secretary visited special shelter for such children. Its director said most of the abuse was committed by foreigners, many of them from Britain.

Cook: determined to take tough action on this "unforgiveable crime"

Mr Cook said Britain was determined that there should no longer be a tourist trade in the exploitation of children.

Under the agreement he signed with the Philippines Foreign Secretary there will be what's described as extensive cooperation between the British and Philippine police.

They will exchange intelligence so that suspected paedophiles can be tracked, and British police are to mount a special training programme which will mean that police all over the Philippines are better able to deal with the problem of foreign paedophiles.

Children societies have broadly welcomed the agreement, but some have expressed reservations about its effectiveness.

New UK Child Sex Laws

New legislation comes into force in Britain on Monday extending the jurisdiction of British courts to cover acts of child sex abuse committed by UK citizens overseas.

The Foreign Secretary's initiative follows the 1996 Sexual Offences Conspiracy and Incitement Act, which made it illegal for any Britons to incite others or to conspire to commit sexual offences against children abroad.

British men are among many foreigners who flock to the Philippines for sex with children.

One of the two British men jailed in the Phillipines for child sex offences

Two of the three foreigners so far convicted for child abuse in a Philippine government get-tough policy have been British. Steven Mitchell, 44, is serving 17 years for sexual activities with small boys and Michael Clarke, 50, is serving 16 years for organising sex tours.

UNICEF estimates that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines and many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex.

The British Embassy in Manila last year organised a two-week course led by Scotland Yard detectives into techniques to investigate cases of child abuse.

Subsequently, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation set up an anti-child abuse division - the first squad dedicated to fighting child abuse in the country.

Later this year, Britain is organising a four-week course to train a team of Philippine national Police instructors on how to investigate both child abuse and violence against women as well as how to run their own courses.

The Embassy has already developed a system for intelligence exchange between the British and Philippine police. Now the UK police pass on warnings when known and suspected paedophiles and other serious criminals travel to the Philippines.

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