The labor department renewed its bid to free more than half a million children who are into child labor and its worst forms amid reports that cases of child labor spiked despite the restrictions due to the pandemic.
Atty. Ma. Karina Trayvilla, director of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, said that while DOLE has yet to receive latest official data on the number of young Filipinos engaged in child labor, the government is nonetheless bent on removing about 630,000 of them from such condition by 2022.
“We understand that one of the root causes of child labor is poverty, but we are doubling our efforts to eliminate this. We have encountered difficulties in the implementation of the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now we are ready to intensify the profiling of children in the country,” Trayvilla said.
Under Republic Act No. 9231, child labor refers to any work or economic activity performed by a child that subjects him to any form of exploitation or harmful to his health, physical, mental, or psychosocial development.
Trayvilla said the target to withdraw 30 percent or roughly around 630,000 of the 2.1 million children engaged in child labor is included in the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022.
The total number of child laborers in the country based on the 2011 Survey on Children conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority was estimated at 2.097 million consisting of 5 to 17 years of age where 2.049 million of whom are in hazardous child labor.
The worst forms of child labor include slavery such as the sale and trafficking of children, exposing of a child for prostitution or the production of pornography, offering of a child for illegal activities such as production and trafficking of dangerous drugs.
“Because of this pandemic, we are worried that child labor cases might increase. However, in terms of statistics, it is still undetermined but if you observe the recent news, child pornography cases are rising because they are being used to produce pornography since internet usage is prevalent particularly during the lockdown days,” Trayvilla said.
At present, amid the relaxation of quarantine protocols, the labor department is gearing up its Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program which aims to contribute to the realization of a child-labor-free Philippines.
To achieve this, Trayvilla said the DOLE regional offices are fast-tracking the profiling of child laborers and in providing services to remove them from child labor, including the stepping-up of the Sagip Batang Manggagawa, an inter-agency quick action mechanism that aims to respond to cases of child labor in extremely abject conditions, and the Project Angel Tree, which provides food, school supplies, and hygiene kits to child laborers and their families.
On top of this, the labor department regularly conducts various advocacy campaigns in line with the National Awareness Week for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation this February, apart from the annual observance of the World Day Against Child Labor in June and the National Children’s Month in November.