“Thirty kilos po” stated ‘Jony’ (not real name) a profiled child laborer who weighs around 40 kilos himself, as he narrates about the sacks of gravel he hauls from the mine milling site to the mountainside. As Jony slowly recounts how he transports gravel, he cannot hide with strong words how hard labor has weighed down on him throughout these years.
Jony is one of the numerous profiled child laborers in Tuba, Benguet, where many youth are engaged in similar mining and agricultural industries. They help in quarrying or cultivating and harvesting vegetables using mostly sharp tools while usually exposed to extreme weather conditions. Most of these children are at risk of physical injuries or sicknesses which can manifest in the long run.
As a response to the incidence of child labor in some municipalities and barangays of Benguet, the Department of Labor and Employment – Baguio-Benguet Field Office/DOLE-BBFO upped its efforts to prevent and eliminate child labor in all levels of the society. Close coordination with Local Government Units/LGUs in information dissemination and education helps in bringing government services to poverty-stricken areas and residents. Bridging the financial gap to the poor subsequently helps in lowering the frequency of engaging child laborers in various industries.
Thus, with the guidance of DOLE-BBFO Chief Emerito Narag PhD. and CLPEP Focal Person Charlotte Yasmin Posadas-Tolentino, Community Facilitators from the Field Office conducted a series of coordination meetings as close partnership with Local Chief Executives and officials to assist in the facilitation of the child labor profiling and referral system. Participation of the LGUs proved to be a crucial step forward to alleviate the recurring problem of child labor in various barangays. National agency and local government collaboration goes hand-in-hand as supportive mechanisms in the steady prevention and elimination of child labor.
Twenty-seven (27) parents or guardians of child laborers/PCLs have been recently oriented as beneficiaries for livelihood projects through the joint advocacy of the DOLE-BBFO and representatives of Public Employment Services Office/PESO and Barangay Employment Services Office/BESOs of Ambiong and Bineng. They were assisted by DOLE-BBFO and PESO staff in the drafting of their business proposals that best suits the family’s needs and capabilities.
The PCLs will be receiving their livelihood assistance for their proposed retailing, animal raising, and food service businesses. Each beneficiary will receive the raw materials, equipment, and similar supplies necessary for their livelihood amounting to Php 30,000.00. Furthermore, beneficiaries will be trained on how to sustain their businesses, and upskilled if necessary.
The access to livelihood grants will in turn, withdraw thirty-four (34) of the profiled children from illegal child labor- a highlight of the effectiveness of bringing government services closer to the population.
With activities and programs such as the awarding of livelihood projects, and the strengthening of ties among national line agencies with local government units down to the barangay level, we could reach out to more Jony’s from falling deeper into the chasm of child labor.
With activities and programs such as the awarding of livelihood projects, and the strengthening of ties among national line agencies with local government units down to the barangay level, we could reach out to more Jony’s from falling deeper into the chasm of child labor. And maybe, just maybe, every young Jony will never have to bear the burden of poverty, nor the weight of the world in their shoulders anymore.
END//Daryll Ponard with initial reports from DOLE-BBFO