Baldoz, who, together with Undersecretary Lourdes Trasmonte, visited Pulong Buhangin in connection with the DOLE's Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign, expressed pleasure that the barangay's anti-child labor program, started in 2004, is carried on by whoever holds the reigns of the local government.
"I am very pleased about your consistency. At the same time, I am surprised that Pulong Buhangin's achievements in fighting child labor is not so well-known," said Baldoz in her message during her visit.
"Because of this, I hereby instruct our DOLE officials in Region 3 to document your good practices and to popularize them so that other barangays may emulate and follow Pulong Buhangin's example," she added.
Baldoz recalled that Barangay Pulong Buhangin used to have a high incidence of child labor in the pyrotechnics industry, one of the industries which the province of Bulacan is known for. But it had since achieved the status as a child labor-free barangay. It is one of five barangays in Region 3 included in the DOLE's Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign. The other barangays are Sisiman in Mariveles, Bataan; San Jose in Dipaculao, Aurora; Pandacaqui in Mexico, Pampanga; and Central in San Miguel, Tarlac.
During the visit, Barangay Captain Buenaventura presented Secretary Baldoz a copy of the Sangguniang Barangay resolution informing the DOLE that Pulong Buhangin is a child labor-free barangay and committing that it will remain so in the years to come.
“I commend Barangay Chairman Buenaventura and his officials. I likewise commend the municipal government of Sta. Maria, led by Mayor Omeng Ramos, and the provincial government of Bulacan, under the helm of Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado, for their support to the government's anti-child labor program," Baldoz said, noting that Brgy. Pulong Buhangin has a very active Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) supported by the Sta. Maria Municipal Council for the Protection of Children (MCPC) and the Provincial Committee on Child Labor (PCCL).
Convergence with other government agencies in the national and local levels, as well as political will, mark the characteristics of Pulong Buhangin's anti-child labor program, which has enabled it to bring back 700 child laborers and children at-risk of becoming child laborers, to school from the hazardous work of pyrotechnics-making.
"We also received a lot of support from the DOLE and other stakeholders from other national government agencies, non-government agencies, people’s organizations, and the private sector," said Barangay Captain Buenaventura.
The partnership and convergence extended to the provision of livelihood assistance to parents of child laborers to ensure that they earn sufficient income to support their children through primary and secondary education.
Following a short program, Secretary Baldoz presided over the distribution of educational supplies to selected child laborers and DOLE Kabuhayan Starter Kits in cosmetology and foot Massage to 10 parents of former child laborers, who were trained by Public Employment Service Office-Sta. Maria.
“Nagpapasalamat po kami sa ipinagkaloob ng DOLE na livelihood assistance para sa aking nanay. Malaking tulong po ito para madagdagan ang kita ng aking mga magulang at hindi na rin ako magtatrabaho sa pagawaan ng paputok. Makakapagpatuloy na po ako at ang aking mga kapatid sa aming pag-aaral,” ("We thank the DOLE for the livelihood assistance it extended to my mother. This will greatly help in augmenting the income of my parents and I will no longer work in pyrotechnics factories. Now, I can continue my studies, together with my siblings") said Julie-Ann, 14, the sixth of nine children of Nora Sta. Maria, one of the livelihood assistance beneficiaries.
Secretary Baldoz, Mayor Ramos, Barangay Captain Buenaventura, Undersecretary Trasmonte, DOLE Region 3 Assistant Regional Director Geraldine Panlilio, DOLE Bulacan Field Office head Leilani M. Reynoso, DOLE Region 3 Technical Support and Services Division for Employment and Welfare head Nely Punzalan, Regional PESO Managers Federation Inc. president and Bulacan Provincial PESO manager Elizabeth Alonzo, and other stakeholders later signed the document containing Pulong Buhangin's renewal of commitment and convergence plan to ensure continuity and sustainability of the barangay's anti-child labor program.
According to the 2011 Survey on Children of the National Statistics Office, there are about 2.93 million children aged 5 to 17 years in Central Luzon. Of this number, 320,000 are reported to be child laborers. The DOLE, as lead implementing agency of the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL) has been exerting very great effort in carrying out measures and strategies in the campaign against child labor involving all stakeholders and partner agencies, especially those from the grassroots level.
“Bulacan is a priority target area of the DOLE’s Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign. It has still children from the marginalized sector who are very much at-risk because they are working in the pyrotechnics industry,” said Baldoz.