Bukidnon sugar industry to sign code of conduct to stop child labor

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 April) – Stakeholders of the Bukidnon sugar industry is scheduled to sign on Labor Day a voluntary code of conduct for the elimination of child labor in the province, one of four provinces in the country where the International Labor Organization (ILO) has focused its campaign against child labor.

Hector Tuburan Jr., Bukidnon coordinator of the ILO’s International Program to Eliminate Child Labor (IPECL), told MindaNews the code is the first from the sugar industry and the first of its kind in the Philippines on child labor.

He said one of the models of the code is that of the mat-weaving industry in India.

The code will be signed at the end of the May 1 march dubbed “Walk for a child labor-free Bukidnon” with tripartite stakeholders participating.

Among the objectives of the code is to come up with a common understanding and concern on the child labor issue in the context of the sugar industry in Bukidnon. It also sought to enhance the participation and involvement of stakeholders in the elimination of child labor and to provide guidance and policy framework.

Tuburan said it also seeks to protect and promote the welfare and well being of every child regardless of ethnicity, religion, economic status and gender.

In the stakeholders’ commitment of the draft of the code, they said “the sugar industry in Bukidnon intends to operate within the labor laws of the country, and to follow all the international labor regulations.”

Among the other commitment of the industry includes provision on minimal employment age, that “employers shall not engage children for labor below 15 years of age.”

“Employers who intend to engage children for labor within ages 15 to 17 years, or below 18, shall secure written permissions from their parents or legal guardians, and approved by the BCPC (Barangay Committee on the Protection of Children),” the draft said.

The permission, according to the draft, “does not make said children miss or fail education, not in hazardous work as defined in this Code of Conduct, nor adversely affect their normal growth, morals, and health.”

There are also provisions prohibiting hazardous work for children and not to allow children to work during school days to ensure they attend to their education.

Raul Valmores, Department of Labor and Employment Bukidnon officer-in-charge, said the march along Fortich Street up to the Kaamulan Theater will also serve as a fund-raising campaign for about 1,500 identified child laborers in 13 barangays, which were included in the ILO’s IPECL.

He said tripartite sectors are raising funds for school supplies of an unidentified number of child laborers who will return to school this June.

He said they will also award livelihood projects to beneficiaries, including out-of-school youth and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Valmores cited about 12 labor organizations in the province that will join contingents from the private sector and the national and local government units in the May 1 march. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)