Massage parlors tackledGVB head: Guam not a 'sex capital'
By Ryota DeiPacific Daily News; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ric A. Eusebio/Pacific Daily Newsemail@example.com
By day, Guam's tourism district projects a family-friendly environment, with children playing at the beaches and young couples holding hands and shopping.
By night, however, Tumon can sing an entirely different tune. Solicitors and handbillers appear on busy San Vitores Road, passing out sexually explicit flyers in an attempt to entice tourists to receive massages and other services.
With about 60 to 70 adult businesses, including massage parlors, jostling each other in the area, it is difficult to call Tumon an ideal destination for families with children.
"We don't want to be known as a sex capital of Micronesia," said Tony Lamorena, general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau. "We have families and little kids. If they see flyers or (signs with sexually explicit content), that will send a very bad message."
Officials from GVB, the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Department of Revenue and Taxation, Guam Police Department, and the governor's office participated in a meeting yesterday discussing what each department can do about the image problem.
Lamorena said the meeting was not designed to discuss a way to eliminate illegitimate massage parlors at this point, but to find a way for each participating agency to work within its jurisdiction to check if a massage parlor or its employees are obeying the laws and regulations.
"Jurisdiction is in each agency's presence," Lamorena said. "For example, Public Health can check if the parlors and employees have a proper health certificate. If it's Revenue and Tax, the agency can check if the parlor has a proper license and paying taxes. (Citizenship and Immigration Services) was not there today, but I'd like them to see if they have proper paperwork and visa."
The more the officials talked about it, however, the more complicated the issue has become. At the meeting, officials said it is difficult to track the revenue of a massage parlor because it is usually a cash-only transaction.
It also is difficult to investigate all stores that offer sexual services because even some legal entertainment places, including strip clubs and karaoke bars, offer prostitution to certain "safe" customers.
And, as Police Chief Frank Ishizaki said, "It is very difficult to prosecute prostitution."
Thomas Nadeau, administrator of Public Health's environmental health division, said there has been only one case in which a prostitute was prosecuted in the past, not on a charge of prostitution, but on theft.
"This issue requires collective efforts by a number of government agencies," Lamorena said.
Nadeau said there are two types of massage businesses on Guam -- therapeutic massage shops, which offer shiatsu and other legitimate massage therapies, and massage parlors, which sell sex.
And some legitimate therapeutic massage stores have suffered because of the existence of illegitimate parlors. Nadeau said a legitimate therapeutic massage store complained of being asked for sexual services by a customer.
Lamorena said he will try to include other governmental agencies to tackle the issue from various standpoints.
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Originally published Thursday, December 23, 2004