In a bid to underscore the urgency of the goal of a child labor-free Philippines, the DOLE Regional Office No. 9 last week chose to launch its regional Campaign for Child Labor-Free Barangays at Brgy. Lumbangan, the City of Zamboanga's dumpsite.
The regional campaign is part of the DOLE's wider national campaign to declare 80 barangays, or five barangays per region, as child-labor free by the end of 2012.
The DOLE's newest anti-child labor project kicked off last month, with no less than Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz leading the launching rites at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City.
Regional Director Sisinio B. Cano has reported that the choice of the dumpsite was wise. During the launch, the DOLE handed out school packs to 20 child scavengers in exchange for their scavenging tools. With the school packs, they promised to return to school and to stop scavenging.
"All our partners in the fight against child labor came in full force during the launching, demonstrating their commitment to make the Campaign for Child Labor-Free Barangays a signal turn in the region's anti-child labor crusade," Cano said.
Brgy. Lumbangan, 12 kilometers east of Zamboanga, has been the city's garbage dump for the past 20 years and is home to child scavengers and children collecting trash for a living.
It is one of five barangays the DOLE regional office has targeted to be declared child labor-free by the end of the year. The other four are Brgy. Market Site in Isabela City, Basilan; Brgy. Diplahan, Sta. Cruz, Zamboanga Sibugay; Brgy. Baybay, Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte; and Brgy. Bulatoc, Pagadian City.
Cano said that both the parents of the child laborers and the child laborers themselves will be the central focus of the DOLE's efforts under the Campaign for Child Labor-Free Barangays.
"Through our commitment, and hopefully, with a lot of help of other stakeholders, we can effect change by teaching the parents other means of livelihood so they will stop forcing their children to work. Here in Brgy. Lumbangan, we will rescue the scavengers from the unsafe condition at the dumpsite and send them back to school where they truly belong," Cano said.
In response to the DOLE's call to make Brgy. Lumbangan a child labor-free barangay, Brgy. Lumbangan Chairman Rogelio B. Arcillas presented a Sangguniang Barangay resolution echoing their support for the elimination of child labor in their area.
At the launching, Rogelio B. Arcillas, barangay chairman of Lumbangan; Councilor Lilia Macrohon-Nuño, chairperson of the Committee on Women and Children, Sangguniang Panglunsod; Francisco L. Barredo, department head, Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO); Mohammad Taha S. Arakama, city director, Department of Interior and Local Government; Frederick Ian Capin, regional director, Commission on Human Rights; Sr. Supt. Edgar Danao, head, CIDG-PNP; and representatives of the regional offices of the Department of Health, National Economic and Development Authority, Philippine National Police-Zamboanga City Police Office, and the Employees Compensation Commission, joined Regional Director Cano and other DOLE regional officials and employees, namely Assistant Regional Director Virginia L. Bonbon and Ian A. Lahi, head of the DOLE Zamboanga City Field Office in expressing their full support to the campaign. The event was covered by the media, led by ABS-CBN, TV 11, and ZIMNET Online.
The highlight of the launching was the signing by the DOLE, its partners, and other stakeholders of the document, the Commitment of Support, and their public pronouncement of their pledge to ensure the realization of the Child Labor-Free Barangays.(Lyra Paulino & Jocelyn Cabayacruz)