In Pampanga, DOLE Regional Director Raymundo G. Agravante reported to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz that the DOLE Pampanga Field Office, under the supervision of Ma. Rima Hernandez, in partnership with the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) of Barangay Pandacaqui in Mexico, Pampanga, along with the municipal government of Mexico, and other concerned stakeholders, recently launched the Campaign for a Child Labor-Free Barangay at the multi-purpose covered court of the said barangay.
Barangay Pandacaqui, based on the report of the DOLE Pampanga Field Office, was found to have children, whose ages 17 and below, from poor families, compelled to help their parents by working either as ambulant “pandesal” vendors (riding in bicycles), tri-wheeler drivers, or “mam-bobote” (bottle sellers).
However, through the joint programs of the DOLE, the BCPC, and other partner agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, and the LGU of Mexico, Barangay Pandacaqui is already on the verge of being hailed a “Child Labor-Free Barangay,” being the 3rd barangay in the region, to be given this accolade.
Agravante said that the campaign dubbed “Pagtutulungan. Pagpapalaya sa mga Batang Manggagawa,” is collaborative effort from all concerned agencies who are one with the DOLE in forging programs and services towards a Child Labor-Free Philippines by 2016.
“I am confident that your commitment in this endeavor will ensure that our efforts in making Pandacaqui a Child Labor-Free Barangay, won’t be put to waste,” said Agravante to all stakeholders in his keynote message.
Agravante told former child laborers, who were also present during the program launching, that he too was once a child laborer.
“Ako ay isang anak ng Panday. Bilang anak, kinailangan kong tulungan ang aking ama, upang itaguyod ang aming pamumuhay. Habang naglalaro ang aking mga kaibigan, ako naman ay nagtratrabaho. Dati, walang batas para sa mga menor de edad, ngayon meron na,” said Agravante.
To fully implement the programs and interventions that would fight for the rights of children, Agravante led the signing of the Pledge of Commitment of Support with all concerned stakeholders.
Barangay Captain Carmelino D. Tayao, on behalf of the barangay officials, expressed his appreciation to the DOLE’s help for his fellow ka-barangays.
“Malaking bagay ang hakbang ng DOLE para tulungan tayo sa mga suliranin natin. Kung wala ang DOLE, di maiibsan ang mga problema natin sa mga kabataang nagtratrabaho sa murang edad,” said Tayao.
Meanwhile, Police Inspector Danilo Fernandez of the PNP vowed that the PNP will support the DOLE’s campaign against child labor.
“Dapat, mabigyan ng pagkakataon makapag-aral at makapag-laro ang mga kabataan. Dapat i-alis natin sila sa kalsada at ibalik natin sila sa mga paaralan. Nandito ang buong pwersa ng ka-pulisan para sumuporta sa layunin ng DOLE,” said Fernandez.
Marites Borton, DILG Officer, on the other hand, urged all stakeholders to work hand in hand with the goal of eliminating child labor in its worst form.
“Sana, wag po tayong Ningas Kugon, dapat, gawin natin ang lahat n gating makakaya upang sugpuin ang ano mang klaseng child labor dito sa ating barangay,” said Borton.
For the parents and their children who witnessed the convergence of all partner agencies, the campaign spelled opportunities for them all.
Marilou Esteban, a 38 year old widow and a mother of 4, who works as a pandesal vendor, sometimes a labandera and kasambahay, earning a measly P130 a day, expressed high hopes for the program and said:
“Masanting ya ining programa ning DOLE, lalu na kareng pakakalulu. Sana, king saup ning DOLE, apagaral ko ulit ding anak ku.” (DOLE has a very good program, especially for the poor. I hope that through the DOLE’s programs, I can send my children back to school.)
Two of Esteban’s children Ronnie (16), a high school undergraduate, and Marvic (11), a grade 4 student, wake up at 4am and pedal their way in the streets to sell pandesal till 8am and again in the afternoon from 1pm to 5pm.
Marvic, who sells pandesal on a part-time basis, told the DOLE that he wants to finish his studies.
“Gusto ko pong makatapos ng aking pag-aaral para matulungan kop o ang aking pamilya. Sana po, marami pang kabataan ang matulungan ng DOLE upag makamit nila ang kanilang pangarap,” said the young Esteban.
Also present during the launching are the PTA Officers and school principal of Pandacaqui Elementary School, PTA Officers and school principal of DJG High School, all presidents of the Tricycle, Jeepney, and Pedicab Associations in Pandacaqui, and Principal of Mother Barangay Elementary School.