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DOLE and LGUs in Bicol Cry ‘Unfair’ Following Human Rights Watch Report in Child Labor Incidence

Daet, Camarines Norte- The Child Labor Incidence report of the Human rights Group Organization (HRWO), although recognized by DOLE Bicol, was in reality, may just be “too much”.

This was coined by most of the Mayors of the LGUs concerned during the meeting initiated by DOLE Bicol in the Province of Camarines Norte and Masbate, two (2) days after the HRWO publicized its report on national media.

"The way we (DOLE) and the LGUs sees it, in a simple sense, the figures shown in said child labor incidence, had some discrepancies. They should have first heard our side to know what we have done" DOLE Regional Office No. V (DOLE Bicol) asst. reg. dir. and Officer-In-Charge Atty. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla said after personally conducting the immediate on-site ocular validation and meetings with the Local Chief Executives of LGU Jose Panganiban, LGU Labo and LGU Paracale Camarines Norte.

Also, a separate DOLE Bicol team was deployed in LGU Aroroy, Masbate to conduct a similar on-site verification and possible profiling of the alleged child laborers in the said province as featured in the HRWO report.

After said verifications, DOLE Bicol stressed that the tri-media’s interpretation and the report of the Human Rights Watch Organization could have been ‘overly emphasized’ but still DOLE Bicol said that “it may become our basis in our future interventions if they (HRWO) would work hand-in-hand with us and provide us with their list of child laborers”.

It was also emphasized by DOLE Bicol and the LGUs concerned, that the HRWO may have been 'rushed' into saying that the government is failing to protect the children who dig and dive for gold,  since there have been numerous activities and various Ordinances in the Province, Municipal and Barangay levels, created, passed and implemented prohibiting and protecting children from all sorts of child labor particularly on engaging in mining activities and banning the use of harmful substances such as mercury.

Apparently , DOLE Bicol  with the help of the LGUs concerned specially in Camarines Norte and Masbate, have been waging its continuous WAR AGAINST Child Labor which reached its peak in 2011 and in which its major activities was witnessed personally by the Hon. DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz.

Its activities have contributed greatly in lowering the incidence of child labor in said areas and these ‘incidences’ captured by the HRWO now, may have been part of the new cases.

“We have already covered the major Barangays in these municipalities. But we (DOLE) recognize this report on these Barangays thus our immediate action to investigate and profile the alleged child laborers covered by said report” DOLE Bicol Officer-In-Charge Atty. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla said assuring.

In Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, DOLE Bicol alone, has already released a total of P1.2M livelihood project to 202 identified parents of child laborers some years back and is scheduled to release this year, another P689,746000 for the DOLE Kabuhayan Starter Kits (DKSK) livelihood project to 102 identified parents of Child Laborers and an expectedly higher amount for the "Bangkabuhayan" Project.  Also, a Municipal Child Labor Council (MCLC) have long been established by the LGU and DOLE to prevent and protect children from mining and has laid down plans to implement long term solutions such as proposed amendment of Municipal Ordinance No. 030-2002 which bans the employment of children 15-years below in Small Scale Mining and the proposed re-conversion of the 24-hectare mining site in Brgy. Sta. Milagrosa to its former state as a fishpond. The pond shall be used for dispersing fingerlings which will serve as an alternative livelihood for miners and 5-hectares shall be reclaimed and converted to a "Pabahay" program.

According to LGU Jose Panganiban, the mining site in Brgy. Sta. Milagrosa by virtue of said municipal ordinance, have been raided several times, confiscating compressors used in compressor mining and prohibiting "Pagkakabod".  However, despite these interventions and massive efforts by the LGU and livelihood grants by DOLE Bicol, the prohibited mining still operates in the background.

In Brgy. Malaya, Labo, Camarines Norte, the 11-year old minor aliased "Anthony" featured by the HRWO to have dropped out of school to engage in Gold Panning or "Pagkakabod" was located and interviewed by DOLE Bicol. "Anthony" said that contrary to the report, he is actually going to school and is only engaging in "Pagkakabod" as some sort of 'apprenticeship' to his father during Saturdays or Sundays.  It was in this instance that the HRWO documentation happened thus capturing his actual "Pagkakabod".  With the help of the Philippine Army, DOLE Bicol has started profiling the alleged actual Child Laborers in the area for the provision of an alternative livelihood to the parents.  LGU Labo has also deployed its personnel for the immediate response on the report of awful water condition on said area.

"Since the community are more at ease with the army than us, we requested their help to pin-point the real number of alleged child laborers in Brgy. Malaya and from there we will see what livelihood we can offer. However, let me reiterate, if the HRWO can lend us their list, then it’ll be much easier and faster for us to make our intervention" DOLE Bicol Officer-In-Charge Trayvilla said.

In Paracale, Camarines Norte, there have been major activities conducted by DOLE Bicol in partnership with the LGU in support to its Municipal Ordinance such as the "Dikit Paalala Campaign" in resto bars and the launching of the Child Labor Free Barangays coupled by the release of a livelihood grant of P375,750.00 to 27 identified parents of child laborers.

A similar intervention was recorded by DOLE Bicol in Aroroy, Masbate wherein a total of P616,533.00 livelihood grant was released to 71 Parents of Child Laborers in which said parents have fully embraced the idea of earning thru an alternative livelihood.  A massive Barangay based information campaign on Republic act 9231 and 7610 is being regularly conducted.

"All these efforts are proof that DOLE Bicol together with its partner agencies and LGUs are serious in our campaign against Child Labor. The existence of "financiers" as confirmed by the HRWO report, and the lucrative offer of Gold Buyers make our job a lot harder really. But rest assured that we will not surrender or back out in our war against child labor." DOLE Bicol Officer-In-Charge Atty. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla.

As of press time DOLE Bicol has already profiled 61 alleged Child Laborers featured by the HRWO report in which 55 from Camarines Norte and 6 from Masbate.

“We have been working even on weekends for this (profiling) in order to give the best possible alternative livelihood which is part of our strategy in combating child labor. These actions alone, plus the fact that we have already poured in millions of livelihood grants to these affected areas is a proof that the government is doing its best to battle this social menace,” Trayvilla added.

DOLE Bicol stressed that in  order to craft a better long term solution it may be best if the HRWO, since it has already conducted an in-depth study of the areas thus gaining trust and access to vital information, could come out and sit with the DOLE and the LGUs to plan and craft a better long term solution.

“I believe that we, including the HRWO, have one goal in mind which is to eliminate child labor in these hazardous areas.” DOLE Bicol Officer-In-Charge Atty. Ma. Karina Perida Trayvilla ended. – fin.

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DOLE Bicol Officer-In-Charge

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