"Our strategy is to bring down to the barangay level the fight against child labor so you can join us, and share what we have, including resources, to help our children get good education and, therefore, a better future, and also assist their parents to earn more income so they will not send their children to work," Baldoz added.
During the program, Baldoz, joined by Engr. Ferrer, DOLE Region 10 Director Johnson Cañete, Valencia City Mayor Leandro Catarata, Quezon Mayor Gregorio Gue, and officials of the Busco Sugar Mill Company, distributed MVC scholarship certificates to some of the 80 children.
The MVC is offering the scholarship grants under its Financial Assistance for Elementary and High School Students Program, which is a part of the SDA Church’s Operation Social Development and Advancement, or the OSDA.
The MVC’s community Extension Service office has allocated P200,000 for the program for SY 2012-2013, specifically for the free schooling of some 233 underprivileged elementary and high school students from Barangays Mt. Nebo, Lilingayon, and Lurugan in Valencia City, including the 80 child laborers. The college has partnered with the DepEd for the project.
“This scholarship program is for the underprivileged children who have a very slim chance of receiving or owning elementary or high school diplomas”, said Engr. Ferrer.
Of the 80 child laborers, 70 are now enrolled at the Mt. Nebo Integrated School. Thirty of the 70 child laborer-scholars are male and 40 are female; nine of them are in high school while 61 are in the elementary grades.
Speaking to their parents and to the child laborer-scholars themselves, Baldoz said the DOLE is strongly committed to the elimination of child labor and, thus, supports every program both of the government and the private sector that brings the goal of a child-labor free Philippines closer to reality.
“We have to take the fight against child labor one barangay at a time. In doing so, we are happy to take in allies and partners, such as the Mountain View College, which share with us the burden and responsibility of sustaining the fight,” Baldoz explained.
While Barangays Mt. Nebo, Lilingayon, and Lurugan do not belong to the target barangays under the DOLE's Campaign for Child Labor Free Barangays, five other barangays, all in the municipality of Quezon, namely, Barangays Merangeran, Butong, Salawagan, Poblacion, and San Jose are targeted to be covered by the campaign starting this year. These five belong to the initial 89 barangays nationwide that have been identified by the DOLE to have high incidence of child labor and are targets of convergence activities and measures under the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL). The Campaign for Child Labor-Free Barangays is a central component of the PPACL.
The campaign, aimed at preventing and progressively eliminating child labor incidence in the country, has identified nine indicators, to wit: (1) no child below 15 years of age works, unless in the two exemptions of R.A. 9231, when the child works directly under the sole responsibility of his/her parents or legal guardian, or when a child is employed or participates in public entertainment or information through cinema, theater, radio, television, or other forms of media; (2) no child 15 to 17 years of age is engaged in the worst forms of child labor as specified under R.A. 9231; (3) working children 15 to 17 years of age work within the allowable work hours and are paid prescribed wages; (4) all children of school age are attending formal school or alternative learning system; (5) parents earn to support the needs of their children; (6) presence of a functional Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) which monitors child labor incidence; (7) reports on incidence of child labor are immediately acted upon; (8) local ordinances or resolutions to address child labor concerns are implemented; and (9) child labor concerns are included in the local development plan.
According to the National Statistics Office's 2011 Survey on Children, there are 1.371 million children 5 to 17 years old in the Northern Mindanao region (Region 10), or 4.7 percent of the national total. Of this number, 405,816 are working. Of those working, 246,330 are at risk, or working in hazardous condition. The DOLE, through its convergent programs, aims to reduce by 75 percent by 2015 the incidence of child labor in the Philippines.