Australia gives P298-M to aid PH address online child abuse

MANILA The Australian government is providing AUD8 million or approximately PHP298 million for six years to fund an anti-online child abuse project in the Philippines.

The initiative, called SaferKidsPH program, will provide grants to the Australian Federal Police and a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)-led consortium that includes Save the Children Philippines and The Asia Foundation.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson said this funding reflects Canberra's commitment to assist Manila in addressing and preventing online sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

"SaferKidsPH reinforces our commitment to support the Philippine government's efforts to address this complex form of human trafficking," he said in a speech.

Stevenson is optimistic that this new program would "deepen engagement" of key partners with the executive and judicial branches of the government in the necessary reforms on policies and laws to strengthen the country's child protection systems.

The National Baseline Survey on Violence Against Children shows that at least one in two children aged 13 to 17 have experienced cyber violence in the Philippines.

In some cases that they have encountered, Save the Children Philippines revealed that the co-principals or enablers are often the parents or guardian themselves.

"Many of the parents have come to think that there is no actual injury to the child because the perpetrators are so many thousands of miles away, but that's not necessarily true," said Albert Muyot, chief executive of the Save the Children Philippines.

He stressed that most of these children suffer psychosocial trauma. In the recent baseline survey, Muyot noted that 3 percent of the children admitted that they have sent their nude pictures to other people.

"This is a problem that we should really guard against," he said. "This is why we need to work with the communities to educate parents, including in schools."

Raising awareness

With the funding, Muyot said the group would be increasing activities at the local level to further raise awareness on preventing online sexual exploitation among kids.

The Asian Foundation, meanwhile, will focus on court systems and strengthening of the judicial sector's capacity to be able to respond to such cases.

Aligned with the government's goal to end violence against children by 2025, the six-year project will involve children, parents, local groups, businesses, and media to promote online safety.

Among others, it will support the government's national plans, including the National Response Plan to Address Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence Against Children, led by the Council for the Welfare of Children.

The PHP298-million initiative was signed by Ambassador Robinson and UNICEF representative Julia Rees at the Australian Embassy in Manila in Makati on Monday. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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