"This football kick is symbolic of our intent and desire to get rid of the child labor menace in our country," said Baldoz, who joined Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, International Labor Organization Country Office for the Philippines, and the famous football-playing brothers, James and Phil Younghusband, in the launching.
Baldoz, Johnson, and the Younghusband brothers awarded medals to some 200 former child laborers who participated in the Batang Malaya Football Tournament, which the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), in partnership with the ILO and the Younghusband Football Academy, organized. A press conference kicked off the Red Card to Child Labour launching.
A red card is used in several sports, including football, to indicate a serious offense. When one gets a red card, that means he or she is out of the game.
Representatives of member-agencies and organizations of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) led by Atty. Sonny Matula of the Federation of Free Workers and other union leaders, DOLE officials, officials of international-partner organizations, and members of the media attended the event.
During the launch, Baldoz cited the gains achieved by the Philippines in its fight against child labor, particularly its worst forms.
"I am happy to note that the Philippines is one of 10 countries, out of 144, which has made significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor as shown by the United States Department of Labor's “2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor”, Baldoz said.
She said the report particularly cited the Philippines's new national convergence Plan, H.E.L.P. M. E., which seeks to remove 893,000 children from hazardous child labor across 15,568 target barangays by 2016 through a convergence strategy that brings down the government’s child labor programs and services down the barangay level, the lowest echelon of governance in the country.
H.E.L.P. stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, and prosecution, while M.E. stands for monitoring and evaluation. The convergence program, Baldoz explained, is funded by P9 billion (US$220 million) spread over four years.
"H.E.L.P. M.E., which President Aquino III tasked the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster to formulate, will contribute to the realization of the country's ultimate Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty through decent work," she said.
“By 2016 we aim to have freed at least 75 percent of the 2.9 million child laborers in the country. We intend to vigorously implement H.E.L.P. M.E. through stronger cooperation among partners to ensure that this target is achieved," she added.
Baldoz also said that the US DOL report noted the expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer program, also known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, to include child laborers and its re-design to include child labor as a conditionality.
Last January, the government modified the 4Ps through the Conditional Cash Transfer Program for Families in Need of Special Protection to specifically target households of child laborers, with child eligibility raised from age 14 to age 17. It also added a conditionality prohibiting hazardous child labor as a requirement for continued eligibility to the program.
The labor and employment chief expressed appreciation to all government partners under the NCLC for organizing the Batang Malaya Football Tournament, saying that keeping children in schools and allowing them to play or be engaged in sports is the best way of keeping them away from child labor.