Press Release
October 24, 2011

Cayetano: 'put an end to child labor'

Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano again called on the Aquino administration to do more to check the rising number of children in the country that are forced to work in hazardous conditions. The senator reiterated his call, as the world observes the International Children's Month this October, citing the lack of resources allocated by government to protect and promote children's rights.

Cayetano urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to launch a joint nationwide campaign aimed at creating higher awareness towards child labor and exploitation in order to protect the vulnerable children against those who exploit their innocence.

"We need to see more government agents checking on industries that hire child laborers and communities where parents are known to force their children to seek employment," the senator said. "And government must be prepared to support both the rehabilitation of the children and the parents," he added.

The senator noted that the according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), a total of 2.4 million child laborers ages 9-17 years old are employed in the Philippines. However, he believes that the number could be higher for those engaged in hazardous work.

"Despite being a signatory to various ILO Conventions that prevent child labor, the Philippines is known to have one of the largest number of child laborers in the world," he said.

He expressed alarm at an ILO report titled: "Children in hazardous work: What we know, what we need to do," that described the appalling conditions of child scavengers in the Philippines.

The report listed the various serious risks to children's health particularly being exposed to gastrointestinal, respiratory and skin diseases and the life threatening tetanus.

"It is devastating to know that in a country that prides itself for having strong family-ties as part of its culture, we allow our youth to do the 'dirty-work' in our society, exposing them to the deadly health hazards," he said.

Citing other ILO studies, he warned of the progressive deterioration of child scavengers' learning abilities due to their exposure on the garbage dump, particularly heavy exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or myriad of toxins released from burning of refuse.

"If the lack of sufficient resources to fully improve our education system is not enough to burden the youth, we make it worse by exposing some of them to these traumatizing conditions," he said.

He said that the celebration of the International Children's Month should be an opportunity to bring the attention of the government, private companies and civil society groups to step up measures to address the alarming worsening child labor problem in the country.

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