Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP151021 - Roundtable Discussion on Child Protection Against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Message from the Australian Government
Delivered by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Roundtable Discussion on Child Protection Against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
Discovery Primea Hotel
21 October 2015

•  Members of the Diplomatic Corps
•  Development partners and partners from the private sector

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and I warmly welcome you all to this roundtable event. Thank you for taking time to be here with us tonight. At the end of our discussion tonight, we hope all of us can help create a safe online environment for children.

The world recognises that every child has the right to freedom from all forms of violence and abuse. Sadly, as you know, this is not the reality confronting many Filipino children, nor many others around the world. Of the different forms of abuse, child sexual exploitation is particularly appalling, and now more so that offenders have found a way to turn it into a profitable online trade.

I am sure that those of you in law enforcement appreciate the difficulty of identifying how many victims there are and how many more are at risk, but last year the Philippine National Police reported cyber pornography to be the most prevalent crime in the country.

An important point to stress is the trans-national and cross-sectoral nature of online child sexual abuse. The Philippines is just one link in a global chain of both victims and offenders. To address this issue, we have to involve the efforts of government and non-government actors alike. It is our hope that today’s roundtable discussion sheds light on what we each can contribute to curbing this issue. This is why we are very pleased to have you, partners from embassies, police forces, the private sector and of course development organisations, here with us tonight.

In the Philippines, the Australian Government in partnership with the Philippine Government, and in coordination with The Asia Foundation, is investing half a million dollars over 18 months on a child protection program. The program has a three-fold agenda to protect children from online sexual abuse, prosecute offenders, and promote children’s rights. Through this program, we hope to contribute to local capacities in investigating cases, and identifying and prosecuting offenders. We also hope to raise awareness among children, parents, educators and the community at large about the risks that children face in today’s digital age.

The Embassy and The Asia Foundation (TAF) are currently working with key Philippine Government judicial and executive institutions: the Supreme Court, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Justice. You will hear more about this.

I would like to commend my Deputy Head of Mission, Dr David Dutton, Federal Agent Paul Hopkins, Head of the Australian Federal Police team in the Embassy, Geoff King, Erika Montero-Geronimo and Junica Soriano of the Embassy’s Governance Team, and Carol Mercado of The Asia Foundation, for the professionalism and passion with which they are pursuing this excellent initiative.

With your help, I am confident that we can work towards a skilled child protection work force, an informed and action-ready public, and a social protection system that facilitates proper recovery and reintegration.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that Australia is fully committed to this cause. We are also tapping into our regional anti-crime programs – the Australia Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP), and the Australian Transactions and Analysis Centre’s Improving Governance in Southeast Asia Program (AUSTRAC). We offer the collective strength of our anti-crime initiatives in this worthwhile effort.

I stand before you as a father and a grandfather. I hope that the cause of making Filipino children’s futures a little bit safer is advanced by our discussion here today.

I wish you all a good evening.