Who would say no to sweets? Undoubtedly, our palates have been engrossed with sweets, that it is as if most of us Filipinos could never live without its share of sucrose in our systems.
Dubbed as ‘white gold’, sugar was considered as the most profitable export of the New World, dethroning tobacco. Long had been the time when the Philippines was known globally for its sugar industry. Just like any event in our history, there was also the dark, rugged side of this commerce. The Philippine sugar industry had have, and I should say, still has, its own drama; full of excitement and exploitation at the same time.
Western Batangas, politically covering the 1st District of the province, has been blessed with the agricultural treasure fit for a royalty. It has its bountiful share of vast fields extending across its towns and municipalities ready to produce immeasurable amounts of ‘white gold.’
Before this treasure reaches our systems, even way before it reaches our kitchens and markets, it has to be reaped. The impending reality: there MUST be someone to gather it. But the question of ‘who ARE gathering it’ vis-a-vis ‘who MUST be gathering it’ makes the difference.
Here, now, enters the heartbreaking answer. Mostly children are the ones who take part in this very infamous undertaking known as child labor.
The Department of Labor and Employment-Batangas Provincial Office (DOLE-BPO), launched the Child Labor-Free Barangays (CLFB) last May 18, 2012. It also facilitated and pushed for the Kapasyahan Blg. 29-2012: Brgy. Dao, Tuy, Batangas: Supporting the Fight Against Child Labor, Child Trafficking, and Illegal Recruitment.
In partnership with the Sugar Industry Foundation Inc. (SIFI) and Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA), profiling of child labor is being conducted in the identified barangays in the municipalities of Nasugbu, Tuy, and Lian.
Responding to the call of the Department to eliminate child labor with “Child Labor Sugpuin, Ngayon din!” and the vision of the Philippine Program Against Child Labor of a Child Labor-Free Philippines, is one of the far-away barangays of Lian, Batangas, Brgy. Kapito. Identified as one of the barangays in Lian with emerging child labor incidence, its barangay officials, in partnership with DOLE-BPO, SIFI, ERDA, and the local government of Lian drafted an ordinance entitled Ordinansa Upang Maibsan ang Child Labor sa Barangay Kapito, Lian aiming to decrease child labor incidence in the barangay.
On March 30, 2014, the said barangay invited DOLE-BPO, along with other government agencies for its annual SoBA or State of the Barangay Address. Ms. Rochelle C. Claveria and Ms. Jessa Marie S. Mendoza gave DOLE’s message of appreciation to the whole Sangguniang Barangay, partners, and barangay folks for their support to end child labor. Highlight of the said event was the public hearing for the Anti-Child Labor barangay ordinance. There were a total of 185 attendees for its 3rd and final reading.
Sugar is sweeter without child labor, says the Community Watch Group (CWG) shirt of Brgy. Kapito, Lian, Batangas. With high hopes for its passage, DOLE-BPO is set to embark on the new frontier level of intervention of CLFB.
Jessa Marie S. Mendoza
Labor Communication Officer
DOLE Batangas Provincial Office