Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said that in 2014, the DOLE and its social partners have intensified convergence efforts against child labor through the H.E.L. P. M.E. convergence program and through the certification of Child Labor-Free Barangays and Child Labor-Free Establishments.

“The year 2014 saw the DOLE and its social partners converge more closely in heightened efforts to combat child labor and its worst forms. This demonstrated the resolve of the Aquino administration in curbing child labor,” said Baldoz.

Baldoz said the year is capped by the release in October of the results of the 2013 study of the United States’ Department of Labor, Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which cited the Philippines as having achieved “significant advancement” in its efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

“This is the second year in a row that the Philippines was cited positively by the study, which is highlighted by an assessment of government action to advance efforts in eliminating the worst forms of child labor,” said Baldoz.

“The Philippines is the only country in the Asia-Pacific which achieved this rating,” Baldoz added.

The labor and employment chief also reported that as of November 2014, the DOLE, through the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, has profiled 75,724 child laborers in 406,887 households, and has encoded 23,086 child laborers, or 30.5 percent, of the total child laborers profiled, in a database.

The DOLE in 2013 started the profiling of vulnerable workers (which included child laborers), a part of the roll out of the H.E.L.P. M.E. convergence program and a means to locate where these children are and also to identify appropriate government interventions to the children and their families.

H.E.L.P. M.E. is an acronym for H – for health services and medical assistance; E – for education and training; L – for livelihood opportunities to families of child laborers; P – for prevention, protection, and prosecution; M – for monitoring; and E – for evaluation.

It is aimed at implementing sustainable, responsive, focused, and synchronized strategies to effectively address the child labor problem. It also contributes to the vision of a ‘Child Labor-Free Philippines’ by promoting the DOLE’s ‘Child Labor-Free Barangay’.

Relative to this, Secretary Baldoz signed on 15 December 2014 Administrative Order No. 657, Series of 2014, or the “Guidelines on the Certification of Child Labor-Free Barangay” which governs the selection of child labor-free barangays; documentary requirements; certification process; incentives and benefits; and grounds for decertification, among others.

Based on the guidelines, a barangay, to be certified as child labor-free, must meet the following criteria:  profile of children in the barangay, including child laborers, regularly maintained and updated; commitments of parents of child laborers not to engage their children in child labor, of school heads to monitor school attendance, of barangay officials to support the campaign against child labor, enact and implement ordinance or resolution against child labor, and immediately act upon reported child labor incidents; child laborers have access to health and education services and their parents to livelihood opportunities; presence of functional Barangay Council for the Protection of Children; and inclusion of child labor and/or child protection agenda in the Barangay Development Plan with corresponding budget; partnership with government and civil society organizations; and participation of barangay officials in capacity building activities.

Baldoz reported that as of 12 December, a total of 39 barangays have been upgraded from the level, “low-hanging fruits”, to child labor-free; while 200 barangays have upgraded from  “continuing” level to “low-hanging” level; and 235 barangays from “new frontier” level to “continuing”.

A “new frontier” level barangay means a barangay where no intervention has been undertaken yet, while a barangay in the level of “continuing” is a barangay where interventions or services have been already provided, but these needs enhancements to achieve the goal. In a “low-hanging fruits” barangay, various stakeholders were already mobilized to provide programs and services and need to be sustained and continuously monitored.

Also, from January to October 2014, seven resolutions and 14 ordinances were passed at the local levels in support of the Child Labor-Free Barangay Program. In addition, three Voluntary Codes of Conduct on the Elimination of Child Labor in the Sugar Industry were formulated and adopted in the sugar cane-growing provinces of Batangas in Region 4-A, Negros Occidental in Region 6, and Bukidnon in Region 10.

lso in 2014, to promote compliant and socially-responsible business practices as establishment-based component of the DOLE’s Child Labor-Free Philippines, DOLE regional offices have awarded Child Labor-Free Establishment Certificates to 60 establishments nationwide.

The Child Labor-Free Establishment Certificate is conferred to a company or establishment validated to be not employing child labor and not using products or materials produced through the use of child labor.

On the provision of livelihood assistance, the DOLE Regional Offices has provided P11.5 million worth of livelihood assistance to 8,839 parents of child laborers and children-at-risk in 14 regions. The livelihood assistance was is in the form of food processing; sari-sari stores; automotive machine sets; fishing supplies; crop production equipment; pedicabs; barber shop and beuty salon/spa equipment; carpentry tools; farm implements; motorized fishing boats; manicure and pedicure tools, among others.

Also in 2014, DOLE Regional Offices in NCR 4-B, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and Cordillera Administrative Region, in coordination with the Sagip Batang Mangagawa Quick Action Team (QAT), conducted a total of 26 rescue operations and removed 115 child laborers from hazardous work conditions. The SBMQAT is composed of the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

This year, the Institute for Labor Studies conducted a study in coordination with the BWSC to examine the link between the DOLE livelihood intervention for parents of child laborers, the KASAMA Program, and child’s work situation and well-being outcomes.

The research documented changes in the lives of former beneficiaries (children and their families) as a result of the intervention; assessed the contribution of the intervention on the observed changes; and gathered insights on how to enhance the impact and improve the future design of the program. The tracer study covered 30 former beneficiaries/ household interviewees selected in five (5) regions with the highest number of parent-beneficiaries of the KASAMA program; namely, Regions 3,4B, 8, 10 and NCR.

The study recommended, among other things, the necessity of whole of government support to prevent and eliminate child labor. The ILS stated there should be a convergence of efforts of all agencies that will provide interventions for poverty alleviation. The tracer study also asserted there is no single program that will end child labor, and private agencies and non-government organizations with specialized programs to offer should be involved in the administration of the convergence program.

On other initiatives, the ABK3 LEAP Project under the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL), has assisted 51,718 children covering 30,478 households.  The bulk of these child laborers and children-at-risk of becoming child laborers came from Negros Occidental, with 13,298 children; followed by Negros Oriental, 5,358 children; and Batangas, 2,304 children.

About 279 schools have ABK3 trained teachers/principals and 177 schools with 1,269 trained little teachers. Under the said project, learning resource centers (LRC) were installed in 74 barangays while and 87 barangays have community savings associations (CoMSA), with membership of 1,491 children.

End/letmaring

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