Philippines tops world for online child sex abuse: study

FILE PHOTO: The shadows of five teenage girls rescued from a cyber sex den is seen in this photo taken at Preda Foundation office on December 2, 2010 in Olongapo City. (Photo: TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Philippines has become the world's largest known source of online child sexual exploitation, with endemic poverty helping drive a surge in abuse, a report said Thursday.

Parents and relatives were responsible for facilitating the abuse in nearly all cases, according to the International Justice Mission aid group's seven-year study.

The combination of English fluency and high internet connectivity in the former US colony had helped make the country a "global hotspot" for child pornography, the report said.

The proportion of Philippine internet addresses used to host child pornography had tripled in the three years to 2017, said the study, which based its findings on data collected by law enforcement data.

"There are children who need rescue now, but rescue starts with timely detection and robust reporting," said IJM's Philippine director Samson Inocencio.

The report said of the victims it identified had been preyed upon for years and the youngest was less than a year old.

"We need to act as a global community -- ending impunity in both source countries like the Philippines and demand countries," Philippine Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Villar said in a statement responding to the findings.

The United Nations Children's Fund said in February that the Philippines is one of the top global sources of child sex abuse materials, with 600,000 "sexualised" photos of Filipino children bartered and traded in 2018 alone.

Last month the Manila-based Child Rights Network warned the country's coronavirus lockdown had led to an increase in the online sharing and selling of child sexual abuse materials.