Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz expressed confidence that the government's convergence program on child labor, "H.E.L.P. M.E.", will contribute to the realization of the country's ultimate Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty through decent work.
"H.E.L.P." stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, and prosecution, while "M.E." means monitoring and evaluation.
"The challenge to reduce by 75 percent the worst forms of child labor by 2016 is not an elusive target."H.E.L.P. M.E." if implemented with vigor and with stronger cooperation among partners, will ensure that this target is achieved," Baldoz said in her message to over a hundred residents of Barangay Libas, Buenavista, Marinduque, who attended the DOLE's launching of its child labor-free barangay campaign in the barangay.
"The Aquino administration is very determined to curb child labor using this barangay-based approach convergence program," said Baldoz.
The labor and employment chief visited Barangay Libas, a fishing community where 32 child laborers, mostly engaged in fishing, pastureland work, vending, and domestic work have been identified, to give a preview of "H.E.L.P. M.E."
The convergence program was conceived by the Cabinet's Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster (HDPRC) upon the instruction of President Benigno S. Aquino III for a focused, collaborative, and synchronized strategy to address the problem of child labor in the country.
Baldoz explained that the DOLE, in a consultative workshops conducted last month among its officials and partners in the regions nationwide, has identified a total of 15,568 barangays as targets for convergence.
The 15,568 barangays are classified into three levels.
The first, Level 1, or the so-called "new frontier” are barangays that have child laborers in hazardous situation, but where initiatives have not yet been undertaken. There are 9,435 barangays in this level and these are in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1 to5, 7 to 9, 12 and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
There are 5,545 barangays in all regions in the second, Level 2, or “continuing” areas. These are barangays where there is presence of child laborers in hazardous situation, and where interventions have been undertaken and are continuing.
The third, Level 3, or the so-called “low-hanging fruits” are barangays where child labor issues have been addressed, various stakeholders have been mobilized for advocacy and service delivery, local institutions have been established, and partnerships among stakeholders have been forged.
"In the third level, there are 588 barangays identified in Regions 1, 3 to 5, 8 to10 and the National Capital Region where child labor initiatives needs to be sustained and continuously monitored under the barangay-based convergence program," said Baldoz.
Under the barangay-based child labor convergence program, the DOLE partnering with the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Health, Interior and Local Governments and all local government units, Trade and Industry, Education, Justice, Environment and Natural Resources,
Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, National Economic Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Information Agency, labor unions and workers' organizations, employers' groups, ILO and other international organizations, non-government organizations, professional medical and dental associations, faith-based organizations, and other partners.
The goal of the convergence program is to move out at least 893,000 children from hazardous work. It has a proposed budget of P9 billion spread over four years, from 2013 to 2016.
"This amount will augment existing programs and services in health support for children's growth, education support, such as transport to and from school, school uniforms and supplies, and meal allowance, livelihood for parents of child laborers, and child labor prevention and protection, as well as the prosecution of child labor offenders," said Baldoz who emphasized that the strategy calls for bringing down child labor programs and services in the barangay level, the lowest echelon of governance.
"Barangay Libas takes the distinction of being the first barangay where we are previewing the "H.E.L.P. M.E." convergence program," said Baldoz, who also bared that the barangay is among the 89 barangays that the DOLE is focused to transform into a child labor-free barangay this year.
Of the 89 barangays, 43 belong to the 609 priority municipalities; two are covered by the ABK3 LEAP of World Vision, and 15 are covered by the International Labor Organization-International Program to Eliminate Child Labor.
Baldoz praised Marinduque Governor Carmencita O. Reyes for her very strong support to DOLE's programs and projects in the province, particularly in eradicating child labor through education, even crossing partisan lines in Buenavista to reach out to children and their parents.
In her remarks during the launching, Gov. Reyes said: "We should keep our children in school and not encourage or force them to work. School is where the best formative years of our children are. We should not close our eyes to child labor."
"The strong support of local governments like Marinduque to the barangay-based convergence program on child labor assures us of its success," said Baldoz, who also thanked the governor for her support to the DOLE's job facilitation programs.
Gov. Reyes, popularly called "Nanay" all over Marinduque, has vigorously pushed for the institutionalization of the Public Employment Service Office in the province's six towns and is constructing a modern building to house the provincial PESO to serve the needs of Marinduqueno job seekers and workers.
The event in Barangay Libas was attended by the DOLE's convergence partners led by Marinduque Governor Carmencita O. Reyes, Buenavista Mayor Russel S. Madrigal and his barangay captains led by Libas Punong Barangay Wenifredo Riego, Aldrin Privado, President of KASALI, a community-based organization, Mark Angelo Ornos, President of MANATILI, a community youth organization, and Noemi Bumatay of the Norwegian Mission Alliance, a faith-based organization implementing programs for the child and youth and other vulnerable sectors in Marinduque.
Baldoz was joined in her visit by DOLE officials, namely, Undersecretary for social protection Lourdes M. Trasmonte, DOLE Regional Office No. 4-B Director Ma. Zenaida Eusebia A. Angara, Labor Communications Office Director Nicon F. Fameronag, Bernardo B. Toriano, DOLE Region 4-B Technical Services and Support Division Chief, Luis Evangelista, DOLE Marinduque Field Office Head, Kristine Abbie A. Arcena, DOLE Region 4-B Focal Person, Marjun Moreno DOLE Marinduque Field Office Single-Entry Approach Desk Officer, and Marinduque Public Employment Service Office Manager Erma Reyes.