PLDT, Smart advocate for agile and tech-savvy laws at ASEAN forum on child online protection

PLDT and Smart Communications joined the ASEAN ICT Forum on Child Online Protection as private sector representatives and stressed the need for policies that keep up with technology.

The forum, held in Bangkok, Thailand, aimed to strengthen regional cooperation on various aspects of child online protection, especially the fight against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) and child sexual abuse and exploitation materials (CSAEM).

The forum was co-organized by Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), and supported by UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.

It gathered more than 220 participants from different ASEAN countries and sectors, such as youth, government, multi-lateral organizations, private sector, civil society, and academe. There were also delegates from China, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and France.

PLDT and Smart participated in a panel session on legislative reforms on child online protection, along with representatives from the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) and Malaysia’s Attorney General’s Chambers. The Philippine representatives shared their learnings on the legislative reform process, following the recent enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11930 or the Anti-OSAEC and Anti-CSAEM Act and the release of its implementing rules and regulations.

PLDT and Smart discussed the challenges they faced under the old law, the RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Law of 2009, which placed the sole responsibility of blocking and filtering sites with online child abuse on telcos, or Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The local ISPs raised concerns about the implementation of the old law, as it violated the Philippine constitution and data privacy laws.

“Telcos were hamstrung as to what we can do to comply, as there were conflicting and unconstitutional provisions in the old law. And because it was a 2009 law, there were also no considerations on the roles of online payment channels and social media networks. Insofar as the public was concerned at that time, telcos were the bad guys and were not doing enough,” explained PLDT and Smart’s First Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Melissa Vergel de Dios.

PLDT and Smart worked with the government, fellow industry players, and various sectors to clarify responsibilities and to amend the law to address the concerns with the old law.

“The Philippine government was very collaborative and welcomed private sector inputs for the amendment of the law. We thus joined the industry in making our position known, offering technical inputs, and even rallying to harmonize several related bills in Congress. We also took our government partners to a tour of our cyber security facilities and provided a technical briefing on how we actually work to combat cyber threats and risks,” she said.

One of the notable improvements from the old law, RA 11930 now provides clarity on the responsibilities of ISPs and broadens the participation of the private sector in the fight against OSAEC and CSAEM.

“We realized that the landscape of the private sector was much broader than just the telcos, so we included internet intermediaries, payment service providers, internet hotspots, and even hotels [in the new law],” said DOJ Undersecretary Atty. Nicholas Ty.

Vergel de Dios also shared further insights on crafting effective legislation against OSAEC and other digitally enabled crimes, considering the evolution of online risks and growing concerns about the potential dangers of Artificial Intelligence.

“Lawmaking has to be as dynamic and as agile as technology. The understanding of technology drives the need to be able to see whether our laws stay adequate or whether they need to be updated,” she said.

During the forum, the ACWC also released guidelines for ASEAN member countries on harmonized and comprehensive national legislation against all forms of online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

“We are proud of the development of RA 11930 as it very well aligns with the ASEAN guidelines, embodies adoption of an inclusive and adaptive legislative view of the digital ecosystem that enables online child abuse, as well as fosters active engagement of private sector and various entities in anti-OSAEC policymaking, response and prevention, among others,” said Ty.

As part of their institutional commitment towards protecting children online and complying with RA 11930, PLDT and Smart have been integrating children’s rights into their operations and sustainability roadmap, implementing a Child Safeguarding Policy, and utilizing a Child Protection Platform solution that blocks online content and access attempts linked to OSAEC and CSAEM without violating privacy laws.

The telcos have also expressed continuing commitment towards capacity-building, global benchmarking, and pursuing multi-sectoral collaborations to remain abreast with solutions to protect children online and combat OSAEC and CSAEM. is one of the most active tech sites in the Philippines. We enjoy sharing interesting and relevant stories about the latest trends in technology, developments in mobile phones and social media, and modern digital and geek culture.

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