Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Over 50% of child laborers work in agri sector

Cebu City (13 June) -- Over 50 percent of child laborers in the country today is involved in the agriculture sector accounting to about 2.1M Filipino children based on a 2003 report from the National Statistics Office.

Ismael Trasmonte Jr., field coordinator of the International Labor Organization – International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) in this morning’s Kapihan sa PIA on child labor in the agricultural sector bared the broad-based agricultural industry sees children aged five to 14 years of age toiling in farms and plantations from planting to harvesting crops, spraying pesticides and tending livestock on rural farms among others.

June 12 of every year is not only celebrated as Philippine Independence Day but it is also observed as the World Day Against Child Labor as this year’s theme focused on “Harvest for the Future: Agriculture Without Child Labor.”

Trasmonte said the issue on child labor is a growing global concern while the agriculture sector is the biggest industry where child laborers are mostly found with over 132 M children worldwide. Agriculture is also identified as one of the three most dangerous sectors in which to work at any age, along with construction and mining.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE-7) Regional Director Elias Cayanong in the same forum declared that in the region, about 80 percent of child laborers in the agri-sector are based in Oriental Negros where vast sugar plantations are located.

In Cebu, Cayanong admitted that there may be children workers in some sugar plantations in the north of Cebu but these are not substantial in size compared to in Oriental Negros.

Representatives of the sugar industry in Bogo and Danao City Lee Verallo and Eduardo Tito likewise agreed with the DOLE-7 chief that child laborers in the agriculture sector are not a grave problem in Cebu.

Tito who works for the Durano Sugar Plantation in Danao City however, admitted that during the summer break, most parents would bring their children so they can help and earn money during the idle months. But they made sure that these children are out during the opening of classes so they can go to school, Tito said.

Verallo cited overpopulation that led to the rise in the incidence of child labor in the agriculture sector especially as rural folks living in the mountainsides do not value the importance of family planning.

Under the Child Labor Code, not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad, as age-appropriate tasks that are of lower risk and do not interfere with a child’s schooling and leisure time can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment.

Cayanong however, warned that under RA 9231 parents are held liable when they allow their children to work and deprive them the right to education which is one the basic rights of every child.

Based on DOLE-7’s actual validation of the number of child laborers in Central Visayas under its child labor incidence database, there are 26,890 child workers in the region that are found in areas including agriculture, mining, entertainment industry and domestic work. The database is the first of its kind in the country where the profile of the children are inputted as well as the location mapping of areas where incidence of child labor is prevalent to determine the type of assistance needed by the children in specific places.

The observance of June 12 as World Day Against Child Labor has been going on for five years now as the DOLE-7 in partnership with the ILO-IPEC and other NGOs like the Share a Child Movement continue their advocacy campaign to minimize the incidence of child labor. (PIA-Cebu/FCR)

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