Govt agencies urged to act on child labor issue

Published by rudy Date posted on May 1, 2011

MANILA, May 1, 2011—Government agencies should provide income generating activities for poor parents to keep their children off the streets, a Church official said.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive director of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace said various entities should appropriately respond to the problem of child labor through income-generating activities for children’s parents in order to support their brood.

He said the presence of street children in every locality is a challenge to both the local government unit and the parish church.

Gariguez said street children along with minors working in various livelihood activities need to enjoy child’s play and enough time for studies.

“One need not pass ordinances to act and respond to these realities because it simply needs concern and reasonable resources,” Fr. Gariguez told CBCPNews.

As the country’s wage-earners hope to hear some “good news” from the government on Sunday, May 1 known as International Labor Day, the Catholic church through its various ministries will address concerns about child labor.

The Philippine country office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) has recently presented a research titled “Towards a Child Labour-Free Philippines,” underscoring the existence of child labor in Bukidnon, Northern Samar, Quezon and Masbate provinces.

ILO’s Giovanni Soledad quoted last year’s Labor Force Survey disclosing the presence of some 2.4 million child workers in the country.

A more detailed survey will be made this year through the auspices of the National Statistics Office.

Malaybalay Bishop Jose Araneta Cabantan admitted that a good number of children usually accompany their parents every harvest time, whether in sugar or corn lands.

Bukidnon, a landlocked province in Southern Philippines hosts sugar and corn plantations.

Cabantan, a licensed chemical engineer before he entered priesthood, said whenever there are working children, poverty exists.

“In my talks with Catholic school officials, they said parents would usually request for their children’s presence during harvest seasons to augment their income,” the 53-year old prelate said. About 47% of those surveyed (1,632) said they are no longer in school.

Meanwhile, Msgr. Melecio V. Verastigue, Diocese of Lucena’s Social Action Center director said child labor occurs in areas where people are poor.

The International Labor Organization reported the existence of some 1,453 child labourers in Quezon Province, specifically Lucena City, Calauag and Catanauan towns. Some 24% are into informal sales, 18% into domestic work and another 18% scrap recycling.

“Some of them come from broken families and having no one to depend on, they have to rely on themselves for their survival,” Verastigue said.

Verastigue added there are also situations where minors work in order to support their respective families. This was further reinforced by the findings of the ILO in the Philippines. Some 85% of those surveyed minors said their reason for going to work is to support their families. Nearly half of the total number of minors surveyed (47%) said they cannot afford to go to school anymore.

He said poverty may be used as an argument to have the Reproductive Health bill passed.

Asked of possible programs to end child labour, Verastigue, a director of the social action ministry for the past five years said they will work hand in hand with local government units as in the case of men, women and minors manning the dangerous curves at the Quezon National Park, seeking coins from commuters almost 24 hours a day.

“We will device a program for them beginning with values formation to prevent them from [doing] exploitative and dangerous work,” he said. (Melo M. Acuna)

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