The government’s fight against child labor, particularly its worst forms, has levelled up with the signing of the Joint Memorandum Circular on the Guidelines in the Implementation of the H.E.L.P. M.E. Convergence Program to Address Child Labor.
“The Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) is being issued to provide policy guidelines and procedures in the implementation of the HELP ME Convergence Program to Address Child Labor,” Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said after the signing of the JMC at the joint meeting of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster and NEDA Board-Social Development Committee in Pasig City.
Baldoz signed Joint Memorandum Circular No.1, together with Secretaries Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Br. Armin Luistro of the Department of Education (DepEd), Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Sonny Coloma of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Mel Senen S. Sarmiento of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Janette Loreto-Garin of the Department of Health (DoH), Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa of the Department of Justice (DoJ), Director General Irene M. Isaac of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Executive Director Patricia A. Luna of the Council for the Welfare of Children, and Chairperson Leonor Oralde-Quintayo of the National Commission on Indigenous People.
The HELP ME Convergence Program is aimed at implementing a community-based, sustainable, and responsive convergence program to address child labor in the Philippines by providing focused, converged, and synchronized strategies to effectively address the child labor problem.
HELP ME stands for the following: H – for health, nutrition and medical services; E – for education and training; L – for livelihood opportunities to parents of child laborers; P – for prevention, protection and prosecution; M – for monitoring; and E – for evaluation. It engages several government agencies to deliver services and assist in the promotion of child rights to child laborers and their families to combat child labor.
The H.E.L.P. M.E. Convergence Program beneficiaries include children engaged in child labor and family members of child laborers needing appropriate services. It shall be implemented in all regions, but priority will be provided to barangays identified by the DOLE and its partners to be transformed as child labor-free.
The joint issuance states that the DOLE shall provide overall coordination of activities of the H.E.L.P. M.E. Convergence Program in the areas of policy, program and strategy formulation and implementation, as well as in program monitoring and evaluation. It shall promote expansion of the alliance towards provision of direct services such as, but not limited to, health, education, welfare and legal assistance to child labor victims and provision of viable economic opportunities to parents of child laborers.
The DSWD shall be the lead agency in the conduct of training of local social welfare and development officers for community organizing and the provision of special social services to ensure the well-being and protection of children, including the improvement of the living conditions of their families with focus on linking families of child laborers to the DSWD programs in partnership with LGUs. It shall also provide policy directions and standards for the delivery of institution-based welfare services and technical assistance for the improvement of LGU-based service delivery. Further, the DSWD shall foster partnership among its partner-welfare agencies towards the elimination of child labor.
The DepEd, on the other hand, shall develop policy support to the elimination of child labor and shall ensure proper and suitable delivery modes for them, as well as learning opportunities for their parents using various life skills approaches and strategies and ensure the integration of programs against child labor in the curriculum and in the goals of Education for All.
The DOH shall formulate and monitor the implementation of standards, policies and guidelines related to children’s health, nutrition and development as well as the promotion of healthy and safe environment. It shall develop and maintain health information system for planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of program relative to the same; establish a network or linkage for medical, nutrition and health services and response; develop or assist in the development, and facilitate the implementation of innovative or alternative relevant and appropriate strategies for health intervention as well as the provision of basic health and nutrition services under the context of primary health care; and facilitate the conduct of research on protecting and promoting children’s health, nutrition and welfare from hazardous work/environment. It shall also be responsible for providing access to health and nutrition services for victims of child labor through direct service delivery of such service or the establishment of a working referral system.
The joint memorandum circular also states that DILG shall advocate and disseminate child labor-related national policies to the LGUs as well as guidelines that may be promulgated by other government agencies pertaining to the handling of child labor victims. It shall also reiterate to LGUs the need to upgrade or sustain the functionality of their Local Councils for the Protection of Children (LCPCs) for the prevention of child labor and protection of children victims; and encourage LGUs to include and maintain anti-child labor initiatives in their local development plans.
The DA shall mainstream child labor issues into its existing programs, projects and activities; further intensify the implementation of its income-enhancing interventions for farmers and fisherfolks and contribute to the reduction of their families’ dependence on child labor; and increase awareness on child labor issues and concerns among its regional offices and extension workers, and among families of farmers and fisherfolks.
The DOJ shall undertake monitoring, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse, child labor and exploitation cases. It shall provide legal assistance through the DOJ Action Center or the Public Attorneys’ Office and facilitate access of the child victims to the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program as well as Victims’ Compensation Program.
The TESDA shall make available their programs and services relating to technical vocational education and training; formulate plans and policies; disseminate relevant information on priority skills; and assist in guiding the youth in making informed career decisions.
The NEDA shall take the lead in efforts to coordinate the integration of child labor agenda in national/regional development planning and investment programming; advocate for the integration of child labor concerns in programs of cooperation with relevant bilateral and multilateral institutions; assist in the formulation and advocacy of policies and other measures in pursuit of the objectives of the child labor agenda; and provide technical assistance in the conduct of related activities such as in plan/policy formulation, project development and researches.
The CWC shall ensure the integration of child labor concerns in all frameworks and plans on children such as the Philippine National Strategic Framework for Plan Development for Children, 2000-2025 (Child 21). The CWC shall lead in monitoring the implementation of laws, plans and programs on children, including child labor.
The PIA shall assist in the conduct of information, education and communication campaign activities through the multi-media and inter-personal communication activities for the HELP ME Convergence Program.
The NCIP shall assist in providing pertinent and appropriate policies, programs and services for the protection and promotion of the interest and well-being of children from indigenous cultural communities who are also child laborers or IP children at-risk of becoming child laborers.
The joint memorandum circular also directs all member-agencies to commit, in accordance with or subject to the concerned agencies’ respective work/financial plans and applicable laws, rules and regulations, to update and share their respective data or information on child labor or other related concerns in the HELP ME Data Management System; provide budgetary allocation on child protection in their respective agency general appropriations to ensure program continuity; actively participate in inter-agency committees at the national, regional and LGU levels for effective coordination and convergence; and undertake capacity building of program implementers especially at the LGUs including the Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPCs).
Under the joint memorandum circular, a HELP ME Program Management Team (PMT) will be created which shall act as the coordinating and monitoring body in the implementation of the HELP ME Convergence Program activities and shall be composed of technical staff from the member-agencies. It is tasked to assess and evaluate the attainment of the HELP ME objectives; prepare, coordinate and monitor the implementation of the HELP ME work plans; ensure that the activities of the HELP ME Program stakeholders are synchronized and well-timed; discuss issues and concerns of members of the PMT before elevating to the NCLC; and provide NCLC with recommendations relating to the overall directions of the HELP ME Program.
It also called for the active participation of civil society organizations, workers groups, employers’ organizations, professional groups, faith-based organizations, academe, media and other stakeholders to assist and support the convergence program through advocacy, capacity building, monitoring, technical and financial support/assistance.
The Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster approved the HELP ME Convergence Program during its joint meeting with the NEDA Board – Social Development Committee on 8 November 2012.