RDC-12 wants campaign vs child labor down to barangays

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 January)– The Regional Development Council (RDC) in Region 12 is pushing for the expansion of the national government’s campaign against child labor down to the barangays.

Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, RDC-12 chair, said the council passed a resolution mandating local government units (LGUs) to support the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) drive to transform the region’s barangays into child labor-free areas.

Region 12, also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“This resolution aims to increase the level of awareness on child labor in every barangay in the region,” she said.

Last year, DOLE-12 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 the provision of alternative employment for the families of the area’s child workers.

DOLE 12 launched the campaign in the region “to influence change and identify the roles and commitments of local stakeholders, particularly government agencies, non-government organizations, private establishments, local chief executives, locals leaders, parents of child laborers and the child laborers themselves” in pursuing the initiative.

In the resolution, Custodio noted that LGUs were tasked to implement support initiatives to the campaign as provided for under Republic Act (RA) 9231 or “an Act providing for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and affording stronger protection for the working child.”

She said RA 9231 specifically sets the LGU’s mandate to “provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development, including child labor and its worst forms.”

Custodio said it also cited the need to “provide sanctions for their commission and carry out a program for prevention and crisis intervention in situations of child abuse, exploitation and discrimination.”

For this year, Chona Mantilla, DOLE Region 12 director, earlier said their campaign against child labor will focus in barangay Lagao here and in Malire and Cadungon in Antipas, Saguing in Makilala and Presbitero in Pigkawayan, all in North Cotabato.

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.

As part of the campaign, Mantilla said efforts are underway for the creation of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children in the identified areas.

Mantilla said they will later forge memorandums of agreement with officials and stakeholders of the five barangays to facilitate their declaration as child labor-free. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)