GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 January) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Region 12 is pushing for the declaration within the year of five more barangays as child labor-free as it moves to eliminate the cases of child labor in the region.
Chona Mantilla, DOLE Region 12 director, said they are currently working with various stakeholders for the implementation of convergence initiatives that would help cleanse the region’s barangays of child laborers, especially those employed in hazardous situation.
Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
The official said this year’s campaign against child labor will mainly focus in barangay Lagao here and in Malire and Cadungon in Antipas, Saguing in Makilala and Presbitero in Pigkawayan, all of North Cotabato.
As part of the campaign, she said efforts are underway for the creation of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in the identified areas.
Mantilla said they will later forge memorandums of agreement (MOA) with officials and stakeholders of the five barangays to facilitate their declaration as child labor-free.
“These barangays were already set for MOA signing (this year),” she noted in the agency’s 2012 highlights of accomplishments.
The five barangays were among the 80 identified by DOLE central office last year as priority areas of its flagship Child Labor-Free Barangay Program.
In this city, DOLE also identified barangays San Isidro and City Heights as among the areas that have high cases of child labor.
Last year, DOLE initially declared barangays Kematu in T’boli, South Cotabato and Bula here as child labor-free.
The declaration came after the signing of agreements among concerned agencies and stakeholders 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.
Mantilla said DOLE-12 facilitated the release of some P104,000 worth of educational assistance last year for the identified child laborers who were covered by the program.
In coordination with the established BCPCs, the agency documented 64 child laborers in Kematu and 69 in Bula.
Earlier this month, DOLE central office said 9,435 barangays in six regions in the country, including Region 12, are considered at the first level or Level 1 in terms of the incidence of child labor.
Level 1 refers to the “new frontiers” or “barangays that have child laborers in hazardous situation, but where initiatives have not yet been undertaken.”
It said these areas will be the main target of their convergence program on child labor called H.E.L.P. M.E., which seeks to provide focused, converged, and synchronized strategies to effectively address the problem of child labor in the country.
H.E.L.P. M.E. stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, prosecution, and monitoring and evaluation.
Through the program, DOLE aims to free at least 75 percent of the 2.9 million child laborers in 16 regions in the country by 2016. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)