Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis yesterday commended the local government of Quezon, Bukidnon, led by Mayor Gregorio LL. Gue, as well as five of the town's barangays, for partnering with the DOLE and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the establishment of a Child Labor Monitoring System that could help push back the incidence of child labor in the municipality, notably those working in the sugarcane farms.
"I laud the decision of Mayor Gue and his local officials to join us and our partners in the gargantuan task of withdrawing and preventing children-at-risk from the worst forms of child labor in the sugar industry," said Baldoz during her visit to the Brgy. Butong, Quezon where she witnessed the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the DOLE and Mayor Gue and the barangay captains of Barangays Merangeran, Butong, Salawagan, Poblacion, and San Jose.
The five barangays belong to the initial list of 89 barangays nationwide that have been identified by the DOLE to have high incidence of child labor and are targeted to be declared child labor-free under the DOLE's Campaign for Child Labor-Free Barangays (CCLFBs).
Central to the Philippine Program Against Child Labor, the CCLFBs is aimed at preventing and progressively eliminating child labor incidence in the country. The DOLE has identified nine (9) indicators of a Child Labor-Free Barangay, to wit: (1) no child below 15 years of age works, unless in the two exemptions of R.A. 9231, when the child works directly under the sole responsibility of his/her parents or legal guardian, or when a child is employed or participates in public entertainment or information through cinema, theater, radio, television, or other forms of media; (2) no child 15 to 17 years of age is engaged in the worst forms of child labor as specified under R.A. 9231; (3) working children 15 to 17 years of age work within the allowable work hours and are paid prescribed wages; (4) all children of school age are attending formal school or alternative learning system; (5) parents earn to support the needs of their children; (6) presence of a functional Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) which monitors child labor incidence; (7) reports on incidence of child labor are immediately acted upon; (8) local ordinances or resolutions to address child labor concerns are implemented; and (9) child labor concerns are included in the local development plan.
Baldoz, who was joined during the visit by DOLE Undersecretary Lourdes M. Trasmonte, said the DOLE is taking a leading role in the fight against child labor, but it alone cannot succeed without the convergent efforts of its tripartite and social partners.
"Our strategy is to bring down to the barangay level the fight against child labor so you can join us, and share what we have, including resources, to help our children make a better future and their parents earn income so they will not send their children to work. This MOA establishing this CLMS is part of our Campaign for Child-Labor Free Barangays," she said.
Baldoz also lauded the ILO which is supporting the CLMS through its International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), and the other DOLE partners which are working for the elimination of child labor in the sugar industry, namely the District Tripartite Council in the sugar industry, Coca-Cola Foundation, Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc., Busco Sugar Milling Company, Inc., and World Vision International.
According to the National Statistics Office's 2011 Survey on Children, there are 1.371 million children 5 to 17 years old in Region 10, or 4.7 percent of the national total. Of this number, 405,816 are working. Of those working, 246,330 are at risk or working in hazardous condition.
The MOA calls for the DOLE to develop the tools for the CLMS, conduct anti-child labor orientation, seminars, training, or workshops for partners and stakeholders, and develop a mechanism that complements the CLMS so that areas outside the sugarcane farms of Quezon are also monitored for child labor incidence.
On the other hand, Mayor Gue and his five barangay captains are tasked under the MOA to implement the CLMS through the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC), and refer child laborers monitored to agencies, such as the DOLE, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Departments of Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Justice, and the Philippine National Police for appropriate assistance.
DOLE Regional Office No. 10 Director Johnson Canete said the MOA also tasks the municipal government and the five barangays to maintain records of working children in their respective jurisdiction and to work with the District Tripartite Councils (DTCs) in the sugar industry, through the crop inspectors of the sugar planters' associations, in monitoring the incidence of child labor in the sugarcane farms. The municipal government, specifically, is mandated under the MOA to pass a resolution or ordinance adopting the CLMS and a Code of Conduct in the Elimination of Child Labor in the municipality.
Aside from Mayor Gue and Regional Director Canete, Barangay Captains Val S. Araneta of Butong; Rene L. Tejano of San Jose; Exequiel Alambatin of Merangeran; Reynaldo P. Alas of Poblacion; and Dante Benemirito of Salawagan signed the MOA. Jerry F. Tumabiene, DTC Mill Workers' Sector and Josefredie Flores, DTC Planters Association Sector, who are all members of the project monitoring team of the CLMS, also signed the MOA.