LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (Philippines) – Internet cafés in the province of Benguet deep in the Cordillera mountain ranges shall control the type of content that can be accessed by their customers.
A child Internet user shall not be allowed to access nudity, sexual activity, and aggressive violence (unless it is an essential part of any educational requirement in school). Whenever possible, the Internet café establishment shall install filtering software that shall inhibit all Internet users’ access to pornographic websites.
These are just some of the very stringent regulatory provisions of an Ordinance recently enacted by the Benguet Provincial Board prescribing guidelines and regulations of the operation and service of Internet cafés and other similar establishments within the province.
An Internet café establishment which violates the provisions of the Ordinance shall face the cancellation of its business permit and license and an imprisonment of the owner for six months to one year and a fine from 500 to 5,000 pesos.
If the violator is a government employee or official, an administrative case shall be file against the person and shall be subjected to penalties ranging from suspension to dismissal.
Known as the “Child-Friendly Internet Café Ordinance”, it embodies the provincial government’s “role in protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence, in all forms and means, including violence against children in cyberspace, brought about by the use and access of the Internet through Internet cafés and other establishments.”
The Ordinance seeks to affirm the province of Benguet duty to promote, protect and safeguard the survival, the development, protection and participation rights of all children, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Philippine National Strategic Framework for Plan Development for Children.
Under the said provincial ordinance, a child Internet user (anyone below 18 years old) shall not be allowed to use the services of an Internet café during regular school hours for on-line or network gaming, e-mail, chat or any other service, unless permission is given by a duly-authorized representative of the school, parent or guardian.
“Permission” is defined in the Ordinance as something that “must be written and accompanied by the contact details of the duly-authorized school representative, parent or guardian for verification purposes”.
In addition, the Provincial Ordinance requires that all Internet café establishments “shall maintain open cubicles for each computer unit that will allow employees or staff of the Internet café establishment to view the type of content or Internet services being used”.
The Ordinance also requires that all Internet café establishments “shall adopt and inform all Internet users of a procedure for reporting any intentional or accidental access to illegal, offensive or harmful content on the Internet”.
This prescribed procedure, including the hotline numbers of the police and other law enforcement agencies and the e-mail addresses of the administrator of the Internet service providers (ISP), shall be posted in every cubicle.
The Ordinance further requires that Internet café establishments shall not tolerate or promote any Internet user’s indecent, lewd, sexually-explicit and lascivious conduct inside the establishment.
The employees or staffs of the said establishment shall immediately call the Internet owner’s attention to stop the conduct. They shall immediately report the incident to the nearest police or law enforcement agency or the local social welfare office for further action.
Any employee or staff of an Internet café establishment who has any knowledge or learns of facts or circumstances that give rise to a reasonable belief that a child will be, or may be, or has been sexually exploited on-line or involved in the production, distribution, sale of child pornography shall immediately report the same to the nearest police or law enforcement agency.
Internet cafés in the province are also required to maintain an Internet user’s logbook for six months containing the name, age, address, log-in and log-out time and signature of the user.
They are asked to post in every cubicle and highly visible places within their premises safety rules for children such as: “ask your parent or caregiver first if you plan to meet with someone you have met in the Internet; it should always be in a public place”, “tell your parent, caregiver, LAN administrator or ISP if you see bad language or distasteful pictures while you are on-line”, “be yourself; do not pretend to be anyone you are not”, “do not tell anyone you meet on the Internet your home address, telephone number or school’s name”, “do not send anyone your picture, credit card or bank details”, “do not give your password to anyone, even your best friend”, “do not hang around a chat room if someone says or writes something that makes you uncomfortable or worried”, “if someone makes you an offer, which seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
The Ordinance also prohibits smoking and the sale and consumption of alcoholic or intoxicating drinks within Internet cafés in the province.
Benguet is a landlocked province of the Philippines in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon.
Its capital is La Trinidad and borders, clockwise from the south, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Mountain Province, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya.
Baguio City, a popular tourist destination in the country, is located in the interior of the province. The city is independent of the province.
Benguet is the homeland of several tribes, collectively referred to as the Igorot. Two of them, the Ibaloi in the southeast and the Kankana-ey in the northwest, are the dominant tribes in the province.
Agriculture, mining, and tourism are the major industries in Benguet. Because of its temperate climate and high altitude, it is an ideal place for producing vegetables.
Benguet is often called the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. In February 2007, Benguet suffered crop damage due to freezing temperatures in the area, reaching as low as 5 Celsius and even lower in some areas, and important crops like cabbages were damaged.
Major crops include potatoes, Baguio beans, peas, strawberries, cabbage, lettuce, and carrots.