The US sees the Philippines as “weak” in enforcing laws against child labor.
In its latest country report on child labor, the US State Department said lack of resources, inadequate judicial infrastructure and low conviction rates have characterized child labor enforcement in the Philippines.
Citing the US Department of Labor’s 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the State Department said the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) can not properly enforce child labor laws.
“In addition, child labor laws are not enforced in the informal sector,” the report said.
The report said a majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (65.3 percent), followed by services (29.4 percent), manufacturing (4.2 percent) and other sectors (1.1 percent).
Children work on sugarcane, banana, coconut, and rice plantations, pyrotechnics production, deep-sea fishing, mining, and quarrying, the report added.
The report said street children engage in informal labor activities like scavenging or begging, domestic service, and commercial sex in the production of pornographic films and as sex partners for tourists.
“Children are reportedly trafficked internally from rural areas to major cities, as well as abroad to work in prostitution, drug trafficking, domestic service and other areas of the informal sector,” the report said.
“Children are also involved in the production and trafficking of drugs within the country.”
The report said the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and the Philippine National Police are tasked with counter-trafficking activities, along with an inter-agency group on trafficking headed by the Department of Justice.
“Although there are no reports of child soldiers in the government armed forces, children under 18 are recruited into terrorist organizations, including the Abu Sayyaf group and the New People’s Army,” the report said.
Philippine law prohibits the employment of children under 15, except when working directly with a parent and when the work does not endanger the child’s life, safety, health or morals, and does not interfere with schooling.
The law requires that any child under 15 employed under these guidelines receive a special permit from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
It does not define any absolute minimum age for children. A child is permitted to work as an apprentice at 14.
The law prohibits night work – from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – for children under 16 years and forbids children 16 to 18 years from working after 10 p.m.
It also requires formal administration of working children’s income, initiates trust funds for working children, and guarantees their access to education and training.
Penalties for violations include fines and prison terms up to 20 years.
Philippine law defines the worst forms of child labor in accordance with ILO Convention 182 and includes criteria for what is considered hazardous work to be prohibited as called for in the convention.
Criteria for categorizing work as hazardous include work that degrades the worth and dignity of a child, work performed underground, and handling of explosives or pyrotechnics, among others. – Pia Lee-Brago, Philippine Star