Baguio City - Claymore (not his real name) 14 years old, lives in a makeshift hut of plywood and galvanize sheet along the mountainside near a private mining tunnel in Itogon, Benguet. For as long as he can remember, his day began earlier than most as he, his cousin, and their Uncle worked to eke out a meager living at the gold mines. From early morning until sundown, Claymore is inside the tunnel with a sledgehammer, a shovel and a pickaxe with only a plastic helmet, a pair of boots and gloves for protection. Claymore learned the practice from his father, and now his 12 year-old brother is learning from him. When his father fell ill last year, he has to quit school and work full time to support the family and pay his father’s medical bills. Claymore is just one of almost 18,000 children who work in the small-scale mining and quarrying sector in the country. Children working in small scale mines fits the definition of a “worst form of child labor”.
Inside these small scale mining areas, Claymore and other children descend to the bowels of the earth to crawl through narrow, cramped, and poorly lit make shift tunnels where the air is thick with dust. They constantly risk fatal accidents due to falling rock, collapse of mine walls, and use of equipment designed for adults. What is worse, in gold mining, these children are exposed to toxic mercury, which is used for separating gold out of rock. This chemical element can permanently damage organs and the nervous system.
In underground operations, for example, children work in ore extraction, assist in drilling, push carts, clean galleries and remove water from the mines. In river mines, they dig and dive for sediments. In mineral concentration, they crush stones, haul minerals, such as clay and sand, carry huge loads in their backs, sometimes in extreme heat.
Children from poor families are being forced by necessity to augment the family's coffers by working. Leaving school and working is a decision forced upon children by the reality they face each day. When children are out of school, they are more at risk of working in plantations and mines.
The worsening working conditions being faced by child laborers, such as 16-hour shifts, the use of illegal drugs to keep them awake while working inside mine tunnels and low wages. With money in his hand, Claymore has access to alcohol, gambling and even drugs. But, he said, he wants to go to school and be a teacher.
Rommel Alcid, President - Elect of the Rotary Club of Baguio Summer Capital said the case of Claymore is an example of the difficult situation child workers face everyday and he represents the many faces of children who work alongside adults in the tunnels of the small scale mines scattered everywhere in the Cordilleras.
The “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project is in support the Department of Labor and Employment’s Project Angel Tree. Our responsibility as citizens is to join in the advocacy to end Child Labor in the Cordilleras particularly areas where there are children being forced by necessity to augment the family's coffers by working. “Alcid added.
He also said anyone can make a difference by encouraging their kids to participate in the “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project and their kids can also motivate their friends, schoolmates, teachers and others to help send a Child Laborer to School by donating a pencil and a notebook or educational supplies like books, back packs and other needs of school children from the far flung villages and barangays in Baguio, Benguet and the Cordilleras. It is also encouraged that if there are benefactors who can provide the child laborer with scholarship, allowance for school or help provide livelihood for their parents.
Meanwhile, Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said the support being provided by various groups and individuals to the “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project show the eagerness of people in the Cordilleras to be a part of the advocacy community to End Child Labor and its Worst Forms.
“We encourage everyone to work hand in hand to remove the “worst forms of child labor” - the types of child labor that harm physical, mental, or moral well-being of a child worker. Let us take action to end it and together we can make a difference.” Lacambra said.
The Regional Director also said by encouraging everyone to support the project, together we can help send a child laborer to school. Just share and give happiness to another disadvantaged sector of our society - the children who are forced by circumstances to work and earn a living to support themselves and their families.
The people behind the “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project are Rommel Alcid, Rommel Marcelo, Adam Cuna, Bogz Abubo, Anthony Vanadero and Joselito “Itong” Tan in coordination with Child Labor Program Regional Focal Patrick Rillorta, the Rotary Club of Baguio Summer Capital (RCBSC) and BAGUIO LODGE No. 67, Free and Accepted Masons.
Groups and individuals who pledged to support the “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project include the Baguio Sunflower Jaycees, SLU Boys High Batch Ocho Tres, OCTCONS, Baguio Midland Courier, JOMARCAN, Peter Ng, Ceny Gunnacao and the SLU-LES 79ners.
Every child has the right to a good education and deserves to develop his or her potentials. Help send a child laborer to school: Donate a pencil, a notebook, books, bags or any educational supplies to the “Lapis, papel at iba pa campaign” project. For more information on how to get involved, contact us at 074-443-5339 and 0927-342-6420 (Patrick Rillorta), 0920-912-0890 (Rommel Alcid) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. /ptr with reports from Honey Lacambra.
Article from DOLE Cordillera Administrative Region website.