“I likewise appreciate the Human Right’s work in defending people’s rights, particularly in this field research on child labor in mining, which highlighted the challenges ahead in the country’s fight against child labor. I particularly commend the HRW’s appreciation of the government’s efforts against child labor, and the DOLE’s willingness to work with HRW and other social partners in the anti-child labor campaign.
“However, I took strong exception to certain assertions in the report that the government has not done nearly enough to protect children from the hazards of child labor in small-scale gold mining and that the government has largely failed to implement laws against the worst forms of child labor. I believe a near-blanket assessment cannot issue from a field research that is limited in its scope.
“I also took the opportunity to inform them on what the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III has been doing—and continues to do—to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including child labor in mining. This is a special duty that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is seriously performing, along with its other core mandates.
“The DOLE has always been steadfast in addressing child labor and its worst forms through a convergence strategy that brings the government’s child labor programs and services to the barangay level, the basic political structure, and to the family or household, the basic social unit in Philippine society.
“It takes the lead in implementing child labor laws and policies that are anchored on the Philippine Program against Child Labor. It chairs the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), which functions as the coordinating agency for all the initiatives of various program partners on child labor.
“Under a national convergence program, the DOLE and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in cooperation with other agencies, such as the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Government, Health, and Education, work closely on the Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster-approved H.E.L.P. M.E., where H stands for health and medical services ; E for education; L for livelihood; P for prevention, protection, and prosecution; M for monitoring; and E for evaluation. The convergence is in compliance with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s instruction to address the child labor problem and move out child laborers from hazardous work, including mining. It is aimed at a sustainable, responsive, focused, and synchronized strategies to address the child labor problem and contributes to the vision of a “Child Labor Free-Philippines” by promoting the DOLE-initiated Child Labor-Free Barangay.
Since the H.E.L.P. M.E program was launched in 2013, it has already provided livelihood assistance to 14,048 parents of child laborers.
“This convergence also brought forth a conditionality for the national anti-poverty program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, of the DSWD which now requires parent-beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer not to compel their children to engage in child labor.
“The Child Labor Free Barangay Campaign under the convergence program has resulted to the ‘certification’ of 101 barangays—53 in 2014 and 48 in the first half of 2015—as child-labor free. A barangay, to be certified child labor-free must meet the following: profile of children, including child laborers, regularly maintained and updated; commitment of parents of child laborers not to engage their children in child labor; commitment of school heads to monitor school attendance; commitment of barangay officials to support the campaign against child labor, to enact and implement ordinance or resolution against child labor, and to immediately act upon reported child labor incidents; access of child laborers to health and education services and of their parents to livelihood opportunities; presence of functional Barangay Council for the Protection of Children; inclusion of child labor/child protection agenda in the Barangay Development Plan with corresponding budget; barangay partnership with government and civil society organizations; and participation of barangay officials in capacity-building activities.
“Also under the Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign, 635 barangays—219 in 2014 and 316 in the first half of this year—have been upgraded from “continuing” to “low-hanging”, while 437 barangays—365 in 2014 and 72 in the first semester of this year—have been classified from “new frontier” to “continuing”. A “new frontier” level barangay means a barangay where no intervention has been undertaken yet; a “continuing” level barangay is a barangay where interventions or services have been already provided and continue to be provided, but these need enhancements; while a “low-hanging” level barangay means one where various stakeholders were already mobilized to provide anti-child labor programs and services which need to be sustained and continuously monitored.
“In 2014, the DOLE regional offices, with the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns as lead, have profiled 75,724 child laborers in 406,887 households. At the end of the year, 30.5 percent of the profiled child laborers have been encoded in a database.
“The Child Labor-Free Barangay Campaign is complemented by another major anti-child labor initiative, the Child Labor-Free Establishments under the DOLE Incentivizing Compliance Program, as part of the new Labor Laws Compliance System. In 20b14, the first full year of the LLCS implementation, the DOLE had certified 96 business establishments in 13 regions to be child labor-free. Another 13 business establishments have been certified in the first half of the year. All these business establishments were awarded Child Labor-Free Establishment Certificates, conferred to a company or establishment validated to be not employing any child laborer and not using products or materials produced through the use of child labor.
On child labor in mining, DOLE regional offices promptly addresses child labor incidence in areas where mining activity is present, notably in Camarines Norte, Masbate, and Compostela Valley. The Child Labor Free Barangay Campaign covers all these areas. Working with national agencies and local government, we have lobbied, for example, the Municipality of Paracale which had enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 10 s. 2011 that bans the employment of children 15 years of age and below in all mining activities, quarrying, and related hazardous occupations. Just last March, the DOLE Legal Service conducted a Labor Laws Compliance Assessment of Mining Operations in Labor, Jose Panganiban, and Paracale, Camarines Norte. While no child laborer was found working in major mining operations in the area, there were child laborers found working in small-scale mining activities, and the Legal Service recommended livelihood intervention for parents of child laborers.
“In Maragusan, Compostela Valley, municipal resolutions strengthening the campaign to eliminate child labor have received strong Council support because of DOLE presence. In Aroroy, Masbate, an ILO-IPEC area, we have brought one of our anti-child labor services, Project Angel Tree. In Monkayo, Compostela Valley, we have partnered with World Vision in the conduct of rapid spot assessment and in the delivery of anti-child labor programs and services, such as child labor program orientation.
“In all these, as well as in other areas, the DOLE’s presence is felt through its various support programs and services, such as the Sagip Batang Manggagawa (SBM), Kabuhayan para sa Magulang ng Batang Manggagawa (KaSaMa), Project Angel Tree, and complementary advocacy campaign, awareness-raising, and capacity building. The challenge is formidable, but we continue to provide livelihood intervention to parents of child laborers through the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, believing that every alternative or additional income-earning activity is a boon to parents to send their children to school, not to child labor.
“We continue to work with government and social partners. Under the Sagip Batang Manggagawa, for example, we coordinate closely with the DOJ, PNP, and DSWD in this inter-agency quick response mechanism to respond to cases of child labor in extremely abject conditions. It employs an inter-agency quick action team at the regional and local levels in detecting, monitoring, and rescuing child laborers in hazardous and exploitative working conditions. With this inter-agency drive, 97 Anti-Child Labor Law violators were already convicted in courts.
“The resolve of the Aquino III administration to combat child labor and its worst forms have been recognized no less by the US Department of Labor two years in a row. In its “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” the US DOL cited the Philippines as having achieved significant advancement” in its efforts in eliminating the worst forms of child labor, the only Asia-Pacific country which achieved this rating.
“The fight to save our children from the menace of child labor and its worst forms is continuing and it is our responsibility to win the war for the sake of our children. We took the crucial steps. We have made progress in taking action to solve this complex and deeply-rooted problem. The task is ongoing, and it is moving on.”
For the report of Human Rights Watch, visit this link: http://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/29/what-if-something-went-wrong/hazardous-child-labor-small-scale-gold-mining