For two years in a row, Philippines achieves ‘significant advancement’ in efforts to eliminate worst forms of child labor–Baldoz

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said the DOLE will not rest in working with its convet the Philippines has achieved this feat,” said Baldoz.

She was referring to the US DOL’s 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, an annual report which the US DOLE submits to the US Congress in compliance with the US Trade and Development Act of 2000 which requires countries to implement their commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor for them to be eligible for the US trade preference program.

In the 2013 Findings, the Philippines was one of 13 countries–the other 12 are Albania, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, South Africa, Tunisia, at Uganda–that have achieved ‘significant advancement’ in their fight against the worst forms of child labor. It is also the only one country in the Asia Pacific which made it to the list. A total of 143 countries were covered by the US DOL 2013 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

In a meeting with Laren Damme, International Relations Officer of the US DOLE, who visited her in Intramuros, Manila, last week to brief her on the 2013 Findings, Baldoz reiterated the government’s convergence program, H.E.L.P. M.E., against child labor.

During their meeting, Ms. Damme lauded the efforts of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III against child labor, and bared that the US DOL has an available funding of US$10 million for international impact evaluation on programs designed to combat child labor and forced labor.

“This funding is available through competitive solicitation and the Philippines may avail of it,” Damme said.

On this, Baldoz directed the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns to look into the funding program and to tailor-fit a solicitation for the H.E.L.P. M.E. convergence program. Through Ms. Damme, she thanked the US DOLE for its support to the Philippines’s fight against child labor.

H.E.L.P. M.E. was conceived by the Cabinet’s Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster (HDPRC), with the DOLE and the Department of Social Welfare and Development as lead agencies, upon the instruction of President Benigno S. Aquino III for a deliberate, harmonized, and convergent approach in addressing the problem of child labor in the country.  It has a budget of P billion over four years, from 2013-2016.

A community-based approach against child labor, H.E.L.P. M.E. calls for bringing down the government’s child labor programs and services in the barangay level, the lowest echelon of governance.

H.E.L.P. stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, and prosecution, while M.E. stands for monithe Philippine Congress has passed the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to establish a permanent inter-agency council, the IACAT; create a database on trafficking cases; expand provisions to protect victims of trafficking; and establish stronger penalties for violations, including those against children.

“President Benigno S. Aquino III has also issued an order to prevent grave child rights violations by creating improved monitoring systems for children in armed conflict,” she said.

The labor and employment chief also updated the US DOL official on the progress of the DOLE reform program, the Child Labor Free-Barangay, which she initiated in 2012 as a DOLE contribution to the National Anti-Child Labor Campaign.

Under the program, the DOLE fast tracks the delivery of education and health services to identified child laborers and livelihood opportunities to their parents to enable them to earn income and, thus, wean their children away from child work.

The DOLE, Baldoz said, had targeted 121 barangays in the country to be declared child-labor free.

“To demonstrate our resolve, I have personally visited 28 of these 21 barangays last year in the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Region 2, Region 3, Region 4-A, Region 4-B, Region 5, Region 6, Region 9, Region 10, Region 11, at Region 13 to personally see how our interventions–advocacy campaign, profiling of child laborers, and delivery of services–are being carried out,” she said.

She added that during these visits, she obtained the support of local government units for the fight against child labor in the form of local ordinances implementing the provisions of Republic Act No. 9231 o Anti-Child Labor Law.

Baldoz emphasized to the US DOLE official that while much has been done in the area of child labor prevention and elimination, much work is still expected.

“Admittedly, poverty will always be seen as the culprit that pushes children to work.  Helping those who do not have the means, in my opinion, is the transformative action called upon by the inclusive growth framework,”  she said.

She also called on stakeholders to continue partnering with the DOLE and other government agencies in ensuring that child laborers and their families will be transformed and reintegrated into their communities with a sense of self-worth, empowerment, and dreams.

END

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