GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has declared an urban barangay here as child labor-free as it intensified its efforts to eliminate the incidence of child labor in this city and several other areas in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz declared Barangay Bula here on Monday as child labor-free following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the agency and local stakeholders for the promotion of child labor prevention and elimination initiatives in the area.
“This part of our ongoing intensified efforts to liberate all the country’s barangays with high incidence of child labor and make them child labor-free,” Baldoz said.
The MOU calls for the stricter enforcement of child labor laws, strengthening of advocacy campaigns against child labor and exploitation as well as the provision of alternative employment for the families of the area’s child workers.
It was signed by officials of Barangay Bula, the city government, Department of Education and the Marcellin Foundation.
Barangay Bula, which is one of the city’s oldest and biggest villages, was initially declared by the barangay council last month as child labor-free through Resolution No. 67 that was later affirmed by the city council.
The measure provided for the strengthening of the village’s partnership with DOLE Region 12 and other concerned agencies as well as support for the implementation of Republic Act 9231 or the Anti-Child Labor Law.
In a program held at the Barangay Bula gymnasium, Baldoz led the distribution of the school and other educational supplies to the 69 documented child workers of the village.
She also released various livelihood assistance packages in the form of Kabuhayan starter kits to 21 parents of the child workers.
The Bula barangay council earlier passed Resolution No. 64 authorizing its chair, Eduardo Vargas, to enter into a memorandum of agreement with DOLE-12 for the implementation of the Kabuhayan starter kit project in the area.
The livelihood starter kits, which amounted to a total of P104,693, comprised utilities and materials for chorizo making, kakanin (puto and kutsinta) making, bibingka making, dried fish production, fish jigging, dress making, mini carenderia business as well as fish barbeque and fried banana ventures.
“We want to make sure that the parents of these child workers have stable livelihood sources so they would not be forced to make their children work again but let them remain in school,” Baldoz said.
During the program, Baldoz said the agency is continually working for the declaration of more villages in Region 12 as child labor-free.
Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
Through its flagship Child Labor-Free Barangay Program, DOLE is aiming for the declaration before the end of the year of 80 barangays in the country’s 16 regions as child-labor free through convergence initiatives with other government agencies and private entities.
In Region 12, the agency has identified eight more barangays with noted high incidence of child labor.
These are barangay Malire and Cadungon in Antipas, North Cotabato; Saguing in Makilala, North Cotabato; Presbitero in Pigkawayan, North Cotabato; Kematu in T’boli, South Cotabato; and, Lagao, San Isidro and City Heights in this city.
Last May, the barangay council of the gold-rush village of Kematu in T’boli declared the area as child labor-free as part of the program’s implementation in the region. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)