In a year-end press conference at the DOLE yesterday, Baldoz bared that the convergence program, H.E.L.P. M.E. is a community-based approach against child labor and has a proposed budget of P9 billion to be implemented in four years, or from 2013 to 2016.
The convergence strategy calls for bringing down the government’s child labor programs and services in the barangay level, the lowest echelon of governance.
H.E.L.P. stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, and prosecution, while M.E. stands for monitoring and evaluation.
"H.E.L.P. M.E. will contribute to the realization of the country's ultimate Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty through decent work," said Baldoz.
“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," added Baldoz.
H.E.L.P. M.E was conceived by the Cabinet's Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster (HDPRC), with the DOLE and the Department of Social Welfare and Development as lead agencies, upon the instruction of President Benigno S. Aquino III for a deliberate, harmonized, and convergent approach in addressing the problem of child labor in the country.
The goal of the convergence program is to move out at least 893,000 children from hazardous work.
Baldoz explained that the proposed budget for the convergence program will augment existing programs and services in health support for children's growth, education support, such as transport to and from school, school uniforms and supplies, and meal allowance, livelihood for parents of child laborers, and child labor prevention and protection, as well as the prosecution of child labor offenders.
The DOLE, leading other government agencies and private sector partners in nationwide consultative workshops this year, has identified a total of 15,568 barangays as targets for the implementation of the convergence program. The 15,568 barangays are classified into three levels.
The first, Level 1, or the so-called "new frontier” are barangays that have child laborers in hazardous situation, but where initiatives have not yet been undertaken. There are 9,435 barangays in this level and these are in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1 to 5, 7 to 9, 12, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
There are 5,545 barangays in all regions in the second, Level 2. These are barangays where there is presence of child laborers in hazardous situation and where interventions have been undertaken and are continuing.
The third, Level 3, or the so-called “low-hanging fruits”, are barangays where child labor issues have been addressed, various stakeholders have been mobilized for advocacy and service delivery, local institutions have been established, and partnerships among stakeholders have been forged.
"In the third level, there are 588 barangays identified in Regions 1, 3 to 5, 8 to10 and the National Capital Region. In these areas, child labor initiatives need to be sustained and continuously monitored under the barangay-based convergence program," said Baldoz.
Under the barangay-based, or community-based, child labor convergence program, the DOLE is working with partners, such as the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Health, Interior and Local Government and its local government units, Trade and Industry, Education, Justice, Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, National Economic Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Information Agency, labor unions and workers' organizations, employers' groups, ILO and other international organizations, non-government organizations, professional medical and dental associations, faith-based organizations, and other partners.
Baldoz bared that the convergence program calls for the DSWD to include in the requirements for beneficiaries of the government's Conditional Cash Transfer, orPantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, not to compel their children to engage in child labor.
"As a a key ally of the DOLE, the DSWD is finalizing its modified CCT program and will prioritize for enrolment families with child laborers or families with children at-risk of becoming child laborers. This means many Filipino families will have the chance to be part of the CCT program in the future," Baldoz said.
Based on the 2011 Survey on Children conducted by the National Statistics Office, there are 5.492 million working children 5-17 years old as of October 2011. Of this number, 2.993 million, or 54.5 percent, are reported to be exposed to hazardous child labor.
Nearly 45 percent, or 2.46 million Filipino child workers, are considered to be engaged in permissible work that is not classified as child labor, according to the survey. The good news is that the survey also showed that of the total number of child laborers, 69.5 percent, or 2.106 million, are attending school.
"Retention in school of the 69.5 percent of the child laborers and bringing back to school the 30.5 percent require a very focused and serious effort," Baldoz said.
The survey, conducted with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), is the first to use the ILO framework for statistical identification of working children, or children in employment, child labor, and hazardous child labor.
“We will continuously exert efforts in providing various programs anchored on the National Child Labor Program. Through the convergence program, the DOLE, its partners, and other stakeholders, especially the people in the community, would be able to curb child labor in the country," Baldoz said, adding that that President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration is very determined to curb child labor using this barangay-based approach convergence program.