British, Aussie cops help Philippines fight child cybersex trafficking
KUALA LUMPUR: British and Australian police are supporting the Philippines' first centre to combat online sexual abuse of children, launched on Wednesday, as the country becomes a global hot spot for the growing crime.
The spread of cheap, high-speed Internet and the rise in mobile phone ownership is fuelling cybersex trafficking, with children being abused over livestream and sold for sex to clients globally.
Anti-trafficking groups said the Philippines has become an epicentre partly due to its rampant poverty, with many children forced to perform sex acts, abused and raped in front of a webcam by relatives who can earn up to US$100 (S$135) a show.
At the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Child Centre, the national, British and Australian authorities will collaborate to detect cross-border abuse and protect children.
"It is a leap forward in our quest for a trafficking-free world," Ms Janet Francisco, the head of the anti-human trafficking division at the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation said.
Official data shows that 45,645 reports of online child sexual exploitation were received in 2017 in the Philippines - where a fifth of its 105 million people live in poverty.
Under the pact, Britain's National Crime Agency said it has also offered training and equipment to boost evidence gathering in the Philippines, to reduce heavy reliance on victim testimony.
The International Justice Mission, a charity involved in the initiative, said most of the victims it has rescued are under the age of 12, with the youngest only two years old.
Child rights advocates said the crime has been hard to curb as it often involves relatives, and they welcomed the move as part of efforts to stem demand for cybersex.
Some 784,000 people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery in the Philippines according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation. - REUTERS