Campaign vs child labor in Bukidnon gains headway

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 June) — The campaign against child labor in Bukidnon  is gaining headway, with at least 2,000 children taken out of the labor force from November 2011 to March 2013, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported.

The ILO report said that out of the 2,500 listed in 2010,  2,000 had been taken out of the categories of actual child laborers or children at risk of becoming child laborers.

Out of a listing of 1,500 children in child labor, 1,087 had been taken off the list while 998 out of 1,000 younger siblings of child labourers or those at risk of also becoming child labourers were also delisted using a combination of tutorial, psychosocial, and logistic interventions implemented by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.

Hector Tuburan, Jr. ILO Bukidnon coordinator, said they had accomplished 83.4% of its target or  2,085 children out of 2,500, have been kept off the labor force  from November 2011 to March 2013 while 99.8% of children at risk of becoming laborers,  or 998 out 1,000 had been withdrawn from the control list.

Tuburan said the figure is expected to improve even more in June and September  as soon as they validate enrolment of those who received intervention in the control list. The ILO is targeting a 100% success rate.

The control list was based on an ILO Survey in 2010,  which identified the child labourers 16 years old and below in 13 barangays covered by ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) in the ciites of Malaybalay and Valencia City and the towns of Maramag, and Quezon, all in Bukidnon.

Bukidnon is one of four provinces in the country where the International Labor Organization has focused the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC).

Tuburan said so far the PSWDO has used only 50 per cent of its P7.8 million budget for the project that ends in September this year.

The Department of Labore and Employment’s (DOLE’s) Child Laboring Monitoring System (CLMS) a project aimed at sustaining the campaign beyond the IPEC, is supposed to sustain the project beyond September 2013.

But Archie Batica, focal person for the campaign at the DOLE admitted the difficulties they are facing. Batica said their campaign has achieved only about 15 to 20 percent success rate.

The CLMS, which seeks to get children in the rest of Bukidnon out of the labor force, is also funded by ILO.

Among the problems cited by Batica is the difficulty in getting the partners to work together systematically, given the different aspects of focus per organization.

He also cited the problem of limited budget from the government for programs against child labor.  While the ILO is supporting the CLMS, sustaining it would ideally require interventions such as livelihood projects, he said.

He said they also encountered the problem of lack of resources among community partners like the Barangay Committee for the Protection of Children , which works for the protection of children.

There is also problem of education and awareness of the issue on child labor, he said, noting that parents  “still prefer to send their children to the work fields rather than the school.”

The sugar industry is trying to help address the problem of child labor through its Code of Conduct,  which industry players in Bukidnon signed on Labor Day, May 1 last year, said Josefreddie Flores, manager of the 9,000 member-Sugar Growers Association in Bukidnon Inc.

The Code of Conduct signifies the signatories’ commitment to follow labor laws and principles addressing child labor. It also outlines the rules governing employment of children, such as giving priority to education, disallowing work on schooldays and prohibiting hazardous work.

Flores, one of the leaders of the district-tripartite council (DTC) and a former mayor of Don Carlos town, admitted that it won’t be easy especially since a year after the signing, the Code has yet to be implemented.

“The (industry players) merely signed the Code for sort of guidelines. But we (DTC) have yet to go to the field and monitor,” he added.

Flores said  the DTC, which is the tripartite body that involves industry players along with the labor authorities and sugarcane workers, is yet to assume full control of the CLMS.

John Distor, representative of the sugarcane field workers to the DTC, told MindaNews Thursday it is very difficult to enforce child labor laws but it helps if they submit to a voluntary Code of Conduct.

Batica said the Code, the first of its kind in the country, can also apply to other industries. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)