13 Bukidnon villages in ILO child labor program

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 October) – Thirteen barangays in two cities and two towns in Bukidnon have been identified  for the International Labor Organization-funded child protection program starting November, Arsenio Alagenio, Bukidnon provincial social welfare and development officer, said.

Alagenio said the P7.6 million program will be implemented in select barangays in the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and the towns of Maramag and Quezon where child labor is observed to be “most rampant.”

The barangays were identified as Linabo, Managok, and San Jose in Malaybalay City; Basecamp, Dologon, and South Poblacion in Maramag; Butong, Mirangiran, Poblacion, Salawagan, and San Jose in Quezon; and Lumbo and Poblacion in Valencia City.

Alagenio said the program will monitor and attend to the needs of about 800 child laborers in those areas. But he said the intervention won’t be limited to the children but also their families. It will cover education, livelihood, and family development, including effective parenting.

An ILO representative and Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan, along with the mayors of the cities and towns, will sign the memorandum of understanding next month.

Alagenio clarified that the program focuses on children working in hazardous occupations but in Bukidnon, the scope of the program is limited to those working in sugarcane plantations.

The Child Labor Act prohibits the use of children below 18 years old for slavery, armed conflicts, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking and work hazardous to health.

Bukidnon is among four provinces in the country where the ILO is putting in place a continuing program to look into the plight of thousands of child laborers, according to the ILO website.

Aside from Bukidnon, the ILO is implementing the second phase of the same program in Northern Samar, Masbate and Quezon.

The four provinces were chosen based on the 2001 child labor survey and other data like dropout rate, poverty incidence, number of poor families and results of a survey on population and family income.

One of five children between the ages five and 14 or 67,000 children in Bukidnon are  considered by the International Labor Organization as child laborers, according to Jesus Macasil, a Manila-based ILO senior programme officer in a briefing last year.

He said 9.3 percent of the figure or about 6,231 children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, based on figures cited by Unicef’s Country Program for Children (CPC 6)  indicators report in 2007.

Macasil presided over discussions in Bukidnon on the inclusion of the province in the program.

The project is under the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) Time Bound Project Phase 2 “Towards a Child Labour Free Philippines” of the ILO and United States Department of Labor.

Provincial Board member Jay Albarece, who chairs the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on labor and manpower development clarified in an earlier interview that the province may not be number one in child labor statistics.

“I would like to believe that the province was randomly picked for the ILO project,” he said.

He said Bukidnon is a leader in agricultural production and its economy depends on the large banana, pineapple, and sugar plantations, as well as on the small rice, corn, and vegetable farms.

“With all upsides, I can’t help but borrow terms from our progressive friends: the province remains feudal as of this day. Many families are dependent on land, so dependent that children in some families are forced by necessity to participate even in hazardous areas of agricultural production,” he said in an SMS Friday.

In the Philippines, the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Survey on Children indicates that 4 million children aged 5-17 work, with half below 10 years of age, and 2.4 million in hazardous jobs. Many child workers are in rural areas, with over half in farming, hunting, and forestry. Boys outnumber girls, though girls work longer, more than eight hours a day.. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)