Manila (AFP) - The Philippines on Saturday vowed to crack down on online child sex abuse, days after a global police operation dismantled a paedophile ring that streamed live sexual abuse of Filipino children over the Internet.
Police in Britain, Australia and the Philippines Thursday said they had jointly cracked a paedophile ring which exploited children as young as six. In some cases the victims' parents were involved.
"We will not countenance any syndicates that will (prey) on our minors and that they will be used... as sexual instruments. That is something that we will really pound the hammer on," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.
"Certainly, actions will be taken to address the situation. This is really a concern for us because we've always said that the youth is (the) future of the nation," he added.
Lacierda conceded that the problem had been "under the radar" but said law-enforcement agencies were now placing greater emphasis on fighting the crime.
Authorities are checking tourist establishments to ensure they are not catering to foreign paedophiles, and parents who push their children into abuse will be prosecuted by the government, he warned.
He also said that an anti-cybercrime law -- passed in September 2012 but later blocked by the Supreme Court -- could have helped the Philippines in its efforts to tackle the crime.
The court is still hearing a legal challenge over the law's provisions on online libel and giving the state the power to shut down websites and monitor online activities.
Lacierda said the law's provisions were "a ticklish issue" but expressed hope that telecommunications companies and officials could reach an agreement over how to proceed.
The head of the national police anti-cybercrime unit said Friday that the Philippines had become a key hub of the billion-dollar global child cybersex industry, with operators aided by widespread poverty and legal loopholes that allow them to remain anonymous.
The unit's head, Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, said the crime had spread through the help of wireless technology where users cannot be effectively tracked by law enforcers.
Sosa said most people who pay to view the activity are from the United States and Europe, taking advantage of widespread poverty in the Philippines.