3 child laborers rescued from Cebu construction site

MANILA, Philippines – Three child laborers aged 17 were rescued from a Cebu construction site, the labor department announced Tuesday, June 30.

In a report, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Central Visayas regional director Exequiel Sarcauga said the 3 child laborers were employed at the SM Seaside Project in South Road Properties in Cebu City.

"The law clearly prohibits the employment of children especially in hazardous industries, and construction is considered hazardous," said Sarcauga, who explained that the rescue was carried out during a joint assessment under DOLE's labor laws compliance system.

Sarcauga said two of the teenagers worked for Pamcore Steel Corporation, while another one was a checker or spotter for Top Glass and Aluminum Construction.

Both the steel company and the glass company were sub-contractors at the SM Seaside Project, where the general contractor was Monolith Construction Development Corporation.

Sarcauga had earlier said there are around 219,000 identified child laborers in Central Visayas.

The DOLE halted the construction at the Cebu site, but the order has since been conditionally lifted after the child laborers' rescue. The order was the 15th issued by the regional office since January. 

All of the minors were sent back home to their relatives – one to Kabangkalan City, Negros Occidental, and another to Ormoc City,  Leyte. The spotter with Top Glass was sent home to Barangay Inayawan in Cebu City. 

Sub-contractors Pamcore Steel and Top Glass paid the travel expenses and the minors' wages, Sarcauga said in his report.

The report, which was transmitted to Baldoz on Tuesday, comes less than two weeks after the labor chief commended Sarcauga's office for 8 child labor-free villages in the region.

These villages include Poblacion in Santa Catalina town, Taboan in Bayawan City, Napakaw in Siaton, Pal-ew in Tanjay City, Abis in Mabinay, Alanginlanan in Manjuyod, and Canggohob and Manlingay in Mabinay – all in Negros Oriental province.  

Child labor in PH

Citing government data, the International Labor Organization on June 10 said there are 2.1 million child laborers aged 5-17 years old in the Philippines.

Ninety-six percent of the child laborers are involved in hazardous work.

State figures for 2011 show that there are 5.5 million children in the Philippines engaged in labor, including permissible work for children.

FISH PRODUCTION. A schoolgirl sets out fish to dry as a part-time job to earn a living in the western Philippine island of Palawan, a major source for seafood in the Philippines, August 24 2004.

File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

United States Department of Labor (US DOL) report listed 13 Philippine goods and products believed to be made with child labor: bananas, coconuts, corn, fashion accessories, fish, gold, hogs, pornography, pyrotechnics, rice, rubber, sugarcane, and tobacco.

The 39-page US DOL report released in December 2014 challenged consumers to reflect on the supply chains of the products they buy with these questions: "Who picked the cotton for the shirt on your back? Who cut the cane for the sugar in your coffee? Who fired the kiln to make the bricks in your fireplace?" 

A local study of 6 rural communities across the Philippines also shows that one in 5 Filipino households tolerates child labor in plantations and mines. 

The study was conducted by the Ecumenical Institute for Labour Education and Research Inc and the Quidan Kaisahan, both EU-funded local partners.

About 73% of those surveyed who tolerate child labor said they are aware of the children's rights but let their children work to raise the household income. 

As kids forced to live adult lives, the children bear long hours in dangerous environments with no or limited protective equipment in exchange for very low wages.

In January, an initial state probe found that two firms behind the construction of a Bulacan warehouse, whose partial collapse claimed 12 lives including two minors and a pregnant woman, "could be liable" for negligence and child labor. (READ: Negligence, child labor seen in Bulacan warehous accident

In the Philippines, employing a child laborer in hazardous work is a crime punishable under Republic Act 9231, which seeks to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the country; and RA 7610, which grants special protection for children against abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.

Those guilty of child labor could face a fine ranging from P100,000 to P1 million or imprisonment from 12 years and one day to 20 years or both, depending on the court's verdict. – Rappler.com