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Thursday, February 9, 2023

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PLDT, Smart support ECPAT National Children’s Month celebration

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It was an afternoon of fun and display of creative juices as children sang and performed interpretative dances and theatrical plays, in celebration of the National Children’s Month. The country’s leading telco PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) supported the ECPAT Philippines-organized event held in Quezon City, and reaffirmed their commitment to ensure safe online spaces for children through the PLDT Group’s Child Safeguarding Policy.

The ECPAT Youth and Children Advocates also supported the event, by providing the ideas for the themes and issues that they wanted to present for this year’s National Children’s Month activity.

ECPAT Philippines is a civic organization involved in the promotion, protection and fulfillment of children’s rights.

Picking up from the real life stories presented in the dramatic play of one group of children, Jose Rosete, Stakeholder Management Executive of PLDT and Smart, confirmed that indeed, the internet, computers and gadgets can be dangerous, where the youth are vulnerable as easy prey to abusive sexual predators stalking the net.

Quoting data from international sources, Rosete said that alarmingly, the Philippines is now the biggest supplier of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) online. In mobile gaming, in particular, it has become easy to lure young gamers into doing seemingly harmless acts, like showing themselves half-naked in exchange for game tokens, badges and upgrades. He added that more than half of victims are boys. According to Rosete, Quezon City can be quite vulnerable because of the availability of connectivity, the number of youth and children in the city, and their ability to be good online conversationalists.

Initiatives to keep children safe online underscore PLDT and Smart’s commitment, through its Child Protection Platform, which has been busy blocking more than 1.3 billion attempts to access online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) materials, after identifying almost 500,000 URLs related to online child abuse. This commitment is made possible in cooperation with other likeminded organizations such as ECPAT Philippines, and other cybercrime watchdogs.

In his talk, Rosete also urged everyone to report online predators and to get involved in suppressing violence online, particularly actions and offenses that affect the young. He urged everyone to keep in check their own digital wellness, and not be swept away by the digital and pandemic chaos.

Supported by PLDT and Smart, ECPAT Philippines organized the celebration of the National Children’s Month, with the theme Sali Ka Bata! Kalusugan, Kaisipan At Kapakanan ng Bawa’t Bata Ating Tutukan, emphasizing children as rights-holders and adults as duty-bearers. Established by the late President Benigno Aquino III in 2015 under Republic Act No.10661 and celebrated every November, the occasion aims to give Filipino children access to healthy environment, good education and healthcare.

To the young, the event was child’s play. But to PLDT and Smart, it was part of a broad and long-standing commitment to protect the youth, the future leaders of the country, all-year-round, beyond the National Children’s Month.

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