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Child Labor not a Matter of Choice in East Visayas

May 25, 2000 · 

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Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

ALLAN, at 19 years old, has the withered face of a man beyond his age . It was the result of years spent at the port of Tacloban City. For fourteen years now, he has been working as a dockhand in the city’s port area. He was barely 5 years old when he was exposed to such a kind of work.

He was 6 years old when he firstearned P2,000 for a month’s work. To a child, it was so much money that he decided to continue to earn a living at the pier. But something was sacrificed — a chance to get an education. He barely got through the elementary level.

Then and now, giving up school in favor of working at the pier has never been a matter of choice for Allan. He has to work in order to make both ends meet. Being the eldest child, he has to feed four other siblings and a sickly mother.Allan’s father died when he was only 2 years old.

Allan’s case, however, is not only heppeningin Tacloban but in the entire Eastern Visayas. Cases of working children have dramatically increased since 1995 to 1999, with 219,004 child laborers aged 5 to 17 years old being exposed to hazardous Office reported.

The NSO revealed that four out of five working children are residing in rural areas. In both urban andrural areas,male working children outnumbered their female counterparts. Among rural working children, the youngest age group is between 5 to 9 years old.

majority of these children are coming from the province of Leyte with 83,101 working children; followed by Southern Leyte, 43,700; Northern Samar, 41,826; Samar, 36,005 and 14,373 were from Eastern Samar.

Of the 219,004 working children, 137,000 or 62.6 percent were reported tohave attended school in the school years 1994-1995 and1995-1996. The percentge of those who had attended school was slightly lower for male working children than female.

NSO records show that out of the 159,000 maleworking children, only 61 percent went to school while of the 60,000 female working children, 66.7 percent had attended school.

Barely half, or 47.4 percent. of these working children went through the first up to the fifth grade in the elementary level, while 26.3 percent completed first to third year in high school at all.

Poverty

The most common type of work which usually involve child labor in Leyte province are farming, street vending, tricycle driving, fishing, prtering,working in riceand sugarcane plantations, quarrying of sand and gravel, as housemaids and performing other manual services.

In Samar, the most common type of work includes mat weaving, nipa shingle making, construction, fishing, as domestic helps, farming and as dickhands.

Nanette Morata, program officer of the child labor program of the Department of Labor and Employment inEastern Visayas, said poverty is the main reason child labor in the region is rampant.

From 1996 to last year, the number of working children went up by 20 percent when compared to 1995, the NSO said.

What is alarming is that employeers seemed to take advantage of these children to work for them because of they were cheaper, Morata said.

And when these children get sick or suffer from work-related injuries and have to be admitted to hospitals, majority of the employers would not shoulder their medical bills, according to the NSO report.

The child welfare law is supposed to protect these children from having to work, especially in hazardous work places.

But even labor officials admit that thay could not rescue every children that work in hazardous sites. As long as there are children born to poverty like Allan, having to work at a very early age will never be an issue of choice but of survival.

By CYNTHIA A. BORGUETA
Tacloban City

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