Issue of September 19, 2021
     
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Child labor and the COVID-19 pandemic

My good friend Rommel Marcelo shared an article written by Marielle Lucenio that was published in Rappler.

The gold trap: “Covid-19 is pushing more Filipino children into hazardous work.”

What caught my attention in the article was to quote, “The Philippines had been making slow progress in its long fight against child labor, but the pandemic reversed the gains that had been made.”

It added, “The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed back to zero the anti-child labor efforts of the national and local government, non-government organizations, and communities; the government’s target of removing all two million child laborers from hazardous labor is impossible to achieve by 2022; Philippine child workers are among the estimated 160 million children worldwide who have been pushed into hazardous work because of the pandemic and the Philippine government, has not tracked these children, so their true numbers are unknown, and they are beyond the reach of public services.

Since the Department of Labor and Employment is the lead agency in the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL), whose primary vision is work to transform the lives of child laborers, their families, and communities towards their sense of self-worth, empowerment, and development and more importantly is to work towards the prevention and progressive elimination of child labor through protection, withdrawal, healing, and reintegration of child workers into a caring society, and supports alleviation of extreme poverty, which has been the main cause of child labor in the country.

In the Cordillera, mining is the third largest industry. They mine mainly for coal, gold, zinc, copper, lead, silver, iron, and nickel. Some mining activities have little impact on the environment, whereas advanced exploration and mining extraction have significantly transformed the landscape in some areas.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera reported the region has two prime commodities of metallic mineral reserves – gold and copper.

According to the 2018 Annual Mineral Resources/Reserves Inventory, Cordillera had 69.6 million tons of metallic mineral reserves of which 85.7 percent or 59.7 million metric tons were copper and 14.3 percent or 9.9 million metric tons were gold.

Mining is considered a family tradition in the Cordillera since the 1900s until today.

There are four companies engaged in large-scale mining operations: Philex Mining Corporation; Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company; Itogon Suyoc Resources, Inc.; and Benguet Corporation.

This year, there are seven minahang bayan zones approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while two more have been cleared by Sec. Roy Cimatu to help the region bounce from the economic decline triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a glance, of the 17 regions, 14 had at least one working child in every 10 children.Northern Mindanao had the highest proportion at 22.1 percent while the National Capital Region had the lowest at 5.4 percent. Working boys (62.9 percent) outnumbered working girls (37.1 percent).As to age group, 53.2 percent of the working children were 15 to 17 years old, 38 percent were 10 to 14 years old and 8.8 percent were five to nine years old.

The number of working children considered as engaged in child labor as defined in Republic Act 9231 or the Anti-Child Labor Act was 2,097 million or 63.3 percent of the 3.3 million children five to 17 years old who worked during the Survey of Children (SOC).

More than half of these children in child labor (58.3 percent) belonged to age group 15 to 17 years who were part of the labor force population. Also, more than half of the working children engaged in child labor (58.4 percent) were in the agriculture sector.Those in hazardous child labor were estimated at 2.0 million or 61.9 percent of the total number of working children.

The SOC data reports the Cordillera has the lowest at 2.0 percent or 41,940 child laborers out of the 2,097,000 nationwide. Child labor includes hazardous work done for long hours by children ages 15 to 17 years; and those classified as other child labor, that is, work by children below 15 years of age in excess of the allowable work hours.

The unprecedented economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing children into exploitative and dangerous labor and many feel they have no choice but to work to help their families survive, but a rise in child labor is not an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For more information of the Philippine Program Against Child Labor, you can visit www.bwsc.dole.gov.ph or www.dole.gov.ph.

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