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The number of child laborers in Palawan has reached 6,733 from 2018 to 2021.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) stressed that the pandemic has been a factor in the increase.

Kristan Sabando, Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program (CLPEP) community facilitator of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said that about 3,177 profiles of child laborers were recorded in 2021. The majority of the profile is engaged in fishing and farming jobs, he added.

In 2018, there were 350 profiles recorded, and 3,206 in 2019. Due to strict pandemic restrictions put in place in 2020, the department was unable to hire enumerators, which made it impossible to keep records.

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“Hopefully, babalik na sa face-to-face ngayong August, umaasa kami na medyo mababawasan ang bilang. Tumaas siya (child labor) dahil sa pandemic, dahil marami silang oras dahil module lang tayo–may mga magulang na ‘sige ako na ang gagawa ng module mo tapos ikaw na magtrabaho.’ Meron talagang ganoon, nakakalungkot ‘yon,” he said in Kapihan sa PIA on Wednesday.

“Masasabi ko na medyo tumaas dahil sa pandemic tapos isang factor pa rito ay hindi buong Palawan din– umaasa pa rin kami na bababa siya. For this year kasi, ang mga area namin na hindi napuntahan last year,” he added.

The 3,177 profiles were all referred to different agencies for the provision of necessary assistance, wherein 2,813 of it already benefitted from the service. A total of 1,378 children were withdrawn from child labor in the province in 2021 record as assessed and validated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Puerto Princesa City topped the most profiled children in 2021 with a total of 975, wherein 974 were withdrawn from child labor.

DOLE focused its profiling in the towns of Narra, Cuyo, Busuanga, El Nido, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Roxas, Magsaysay, Quezon, and Puerto Princesa City in 2021. For 2022, the department aims to record profiles from the municipalities of Araceli, Bataraza, Coron, Dumaran, San Vicente, and Linapacan.

As of June 2022, the DOLE had reached 647 profiles out of a target of 2,647. The department plans to hit 70,000 profiles by 2022 nationwide.

“Ang maganda dito, sa 647 na ‘yan ay 202 nabigyan natin dito ng tulong school supplies doon sa mga bata. Kasi kapag nasa field ka nagpo-profile ng mga bata, isa sa pinakarason talaga kung bakit sila na-i-engage sa pagtatrabaho kasi wala silang gamit pang-eskwela kaya nahihinto sila sa pag-aaral,” he said.

Based on DOLE’s observation, poverty and lack of education are the main contributing factors leading to child labor. From 2017 to 2022, the DOLE-CLPEP aims to reduce child labor by 30%, or 630,000 of the 2.1 million children aged 5 to 17 years old. It is in response to the country’s response to the call of the International Labor Organization to reduce the number of child laborers worldwide.

It is based on the results of the 2011 survey on children by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), wherein 97.7 percent engaged in hazardous child labor. Around 58.4 percent of child laborers work in agriculture, 34.6 percent in the service sector, and 7 percent in industry.

Process of child labor reduction
Sabando said that DOLE regional and field offices are going through a series of steps to get children out of child labor. These steps include activities to get ready, profiling, needs assessment, referring for necessary services, providing necessary services, encoding, monitoring, and reporting, and getting the child out of child labor.

The department also provides livelihood programs and skills training to equip beneficiaries. It is not only limited to children engaged in labor, but the DOLE also refers the parents to government agencies that could respond to their needs.

“Kaya ang bata napilitan magtrabaho dahil ang magulang ay may sakit so walang ibang pwedeng magtrabaho sa pamilya kung hindi siya lang, walang choice. Si mother, ‘yong case nya ay iri-refer sa Department of Health kung anong tulong o pagpapagamot. Hindi lang mismo bata, magulang pati kapatid,” he said.

Sabando further explained that under RA 9231, known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act, which are guidelines to be followed, even if 15 years old is the minimum employable age.

Ages 14 and below must not engage in work unless under a family undertaking and not in hazardous activities. The child must not work for more than four hours a day and not more than 20 hours a week. The child should have a work permit and not work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Children aged 15 to 17 must not be engaged in hazardous work, not exceeding eight hours a day and 40 hours a week, and not working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.

Withdrawal of children from child labor in pandemic time
Sabando said DOLE is struggling to withdraw the profiled children from child labor in pandemic time due to difficulty in reaching Palawan towns.

“Medyo nahihirapan kami sa coordination with MSWDO sa mga munisipyo lalo na kung malayo halimbawa sa Cuyo and Magsaysay. Ngayon kasi hindi pa sila nakaka-update sa amin, although tuloy-tuloy naman ang pag-contact namin sa kanila para mahingi ang update. Last year, kasi medyo limitado pa rin ang galaw, mga biyahe,” he said.

“Dahil sa COVID– hindi namin natutukan talaga na pumunta doon sa area. For intervention naman halimbawa kami pupunta doon, dahil limitado pa ang galawan dahil sa COVID, isa ‘yon sa rason kung bakit mababa pa rin ang nawi-withdraw natin from last year,” he added.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.