The labor department takes swift action in bolstering child labor advocacy programs as the pandemic produces greater economic havoc on marginalized Filipino families.

On the onset, recent improvements in the child labor incidence in the Philippines are now facing more threats as the catastrophic impact of persistent quarantine protocols in the economy had led far more lower-income households to exhaust the use of all readily available resources to make ends meet. Inevitably, children from these working-poor households are at the expense to become the “free labor” to help sustain their family’s needs.

Ms. Suzette Anongos, Community Facilitator at DOLE-NCR MUNTAPARLAS Field Office (MTPLFO), shared that child labor is still evident even with the prevailing pandemic. According to her, the systemic problem of poverty is still drastically felt by households, which led the vulnerable group to opt to engage their children in child labor despite the ongoing health crisis.

“Sa aking profiling noong 2021 hanggang sa kasalukuyan, may mga batang mangaggawa pa rin kahit may pandemya. Hindi lang isa bawat pamilya, kundi magkakapatid. Ibig sabihin, ramdam ng karamihan ng Pilipino ang kahirapan at hindi alintana ang panganib na pwede nilang mahagip habang na-expose sila sa labas,” said Anongos.

She further said that the labor department is continuously doing its part to address the issue of child labor through various interventions.

“Ang DOLE, bilang ahensya na nagsasagawa ng profiling, ay gumagawa ng paraan para maisakatuparan ang hangarin na maalis ang mga kabataang ito sa child labor sa paraan ng pagbibigay ng kabuhayan at trabaho sa pamamagitan ng DILP, TUPAD at iba pang programa ng DOLE na tumutulong sa child labor prevention and elimination program (CLEEP) at sa pakikipagtulugan din ng Local Government Units,” she added.

Recently, some 25 profiled Parents of Child Laborers (PCLs) can now take advantage of the Bigasan Livelihood grant awarded by the MTPLFO in partnership with the City Government of Taguig on June 9, 2022, at Western Bicutan, Taguig.

With the P250,000.00 total project fund, each PCLs received eight (8) sacks of premium rice which would allow them to immediately start a rice retailing business. Said beneficiaries were also given a social preparation training and child labor prevention orientation last March 29, 2022, to yield more positive results on the livelihood provisions.

Under the Kabuhayan Project of the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), the identified PCLs were given sustainable livelihood opportunities to improve their family’s income stream and become self-employed. In effect, the livelihood program aims to provide all necessary assistance and interventions to families in the poverty threshold, particularly the PCLs, to help decrease child labor incidences in the region.

Ms. Ailyn Tajada, a 39-year-old mother and one of the PCL recipients from Sitio Matatag, Western Bicutan, narrated her family’s impoverished situation from having puto business as their only source of income. This led their 16-year-old child to help in increasing the daily income of their family.

“Kumikita kami ng P400.00 kada araw. Hindi ito sapat para sa aming pang araw-araw na pangangailangan, kaya naman sinasama na namin ang aming anak upang makadagdag kita at makatulong sa pagbitbit ng dala-dala.”

With this new opportunity given by DOLE, she expressed her hopefulness for their family’s future. According to her, the bigasan package will be able to supplement the needs of their family’s current puto business as rice serves as the main resource in producing the good. Moreover, she saw this as an opportunity to stabilize her profits to ensure that her children would be able to attend school.

The persistence of child labor can result in harmful damages to the mental, physical, and emotional development of a child. DOLE, in its intensified effort to uphold its mandate in child labor prevention and elimination, shall continuously integrate individuals from the marginalized and informal sector, including PCLs, through the allocation of simple livelihood undertakings to improve the socio-economic situation of households and allow a better future for their children.

END / Christinne Jeremiah Torrecampo