The alarming child labor in the country is not only for the information of the general public, but most especially for the Catholic Church hierarchy in the Philippines, which, in this instant, is disdainfully silent about the subject.
A 2011 Survey on Children of the National Statistics Office (NSO), supported by the International Labor Organization (ILO), has shown that some 5.5 million Filipino children, or about 18.93 per cent of all those aged between 5 to 17 years, are child laborers.
According to statistics, 10 years ago, there were recorded 4.2 million child laborers, thereby indicating an increase of almost 10 percent from 2001 to 2011.
In the same poll, it was found out also that the number of children engaged in hazardous work increased by 25 percent from 2.4 million in 2001 to 3 million 2011. Hazardous labor are those that entails working in mines, factories and on the streets, where they were exposed to dangerous substances and unsafe conditions.
The same survey revealed that farms are the most common place of work (55.4 percent) of children. Some 12 percent work in their own homes as a part of a family enterprise. Those working in the streets and working at sea, similarly, account for 9 percent of where working children are found.
“We have to get to the root of child labor which is linked with poverty and lack of decent and productive work. While we strive to keep children in school and away from child labor, we need to ensure decent and productive work for parents and basic social protection for families,” said Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Country Office for the Philippines.
On her part, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that, “We should see to it that parents have enough income that they would not withdraw their children from school.”
But how, for heavens sake, could the poor and less educated parents ever have an adequate income when they have more than enough mouths to feed in the family? Could they have an option to choose to make both ends meet and improve their lot?
Of course there is!
While it is commendable that government has launched “The Batang Malaya: Child Labor Free Philippines” which aims to end worst forms of child labor by 2016, what is of prime importance is the immediate enactment by the 15th congress of the Reproductive Health Bill (RH bill) or what we would like to call as Responsible Parenthood Bill (RP Bill), which aims to uplift the reproductive health standards of the Filipino community by giving them the rights to avail a wide range of reproductive health services throughout the country. It also aims to enable couples to practice reproductive spacing along with due consideration to the availability of resources that can be availed.
Unfortunately, the bill is controversial, as it is being opposed by concerned citizens, especially the pro-life, pro-family and pro-God groups, all backed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church.