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Mayor in trouble for Saying Kids Enjoy

April 17, 2000 · 

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Published in the ECPAT newsletter
(August 1999)

DUMAGUETE CITY-He probably just wanted to earn “pogi points” before media, but Mayor Edsel Enardecido of Ayungon town in Negros Oriental Saturday found out too late that he had instead put his foot in his mouth.

In a press conferences Saturday for the launching of the Program to Combat Child Labor in Negros Oriental, Enardecido said child prostitution, is not a problem because the prostitutes do not only get paid for their services but “they also enjoy it. ”

The mayor’s remark drew mild laughter from the audience, but earned the ire of lawyer Whelma Yap, president of the Federacion Internationale de Abogadas in Negros Oriental.

“I object strongly to the statement that child prostitution is an enjoyable job,” Yap said.

Enardecido lost no time apologizing, although he justified his statement, saying it was “just sharing his experience with these girls.”

The audience erupted into laughter before Enardecido could continue. His experience with prostitutes, he explained, was when he took part in “rescuing” them.

But the girls went back to resume what they were doing “because they enjoyed it.”

Yap said it is wrong to treat women as commodities and to refer to prostitution as “an enjoyable profesion” is a violation of human rights.

While many shared Yap’s view, other participants said the mayor probably meant well, but had difficulty expressing himself.

Child prostitution is considered by the International Labor Organization and the Department of Labor and Employment as the second worst case of child labor in the country.

The worst cases of child labor are found in the fishery sector, which is the priority of the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor.

This project is being implemented in the Philippines and Indonesia through a $32 million grant from the US govermnent.

Richard Szal, ILO regional director, said child labor in the Philippines is still a problem, although the situation today, is better than what prevailed five years ago.

Nobody knew what it was then, Szal said, prompting his organization to do a study. They found that 3.7 million -children between 5 to 18 years old were working under hazardous conditions.

“Now people recognize that there is a problem,” he said.

The ILO is also working to eliminate child labor in the gold mining industry as well as in the leather processing industry.

Data obtained by the Silliman University revealed that 63 percent of victims of child labor in Negros Oriental are in the agriculture sector.

The immediate objective of the EPEC is to systematically remove some 1,300 children working in the fishing sector in selected areas of Negros Oriental and Palawan in two years.

The program will provide nonformal educational- and – recreational opportunities to the younger siblings of the working children, rehabilitate worldng children by providing them counselling and socializing opportunities and opportunities for institutional development.

Szal said the Philippines is the first country in the world to allow the ILO to conduct a study to look into the problem of child labor.

He, however, admitted that child labor cannot be totally eliminated worldwide. He said it still exists in some areas in the United States, particularly in the vineyards of California.

BY ALEX V. PAL
PDI Visayas Bureau

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