Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday expressed elation over the report of the United States Department of Labor (US DOL), “2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor”, showing the Philippines as one of 10 countries, out of 144, which “made significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor”.

Baldoz, who is in New York to attend as head of the Philippine delegation to the 2nd United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, said the report is an affirmation of the Philippines’s focused and determined efforts in eliminating the worst forms of child labor through coordinated enforcement of all relevant laws, regulations, and policies and implementation of child labor social programs and projects.

The annual US DOL report,  mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000, provides information on the efforts of certain U.S. trade beneficiary countries to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. It assesses government action to advance efforts in eliminating the worst forms of child labor; highlights major findings related to each government’s efforts; and provides country-specific suggestions for actions that would help combat the problems each country is facing.

On the Philippines, the report observed that the goal of reducing child labor is already mainstreamed into the Labor and Employment Plan 2011-2016, the accompanying document to the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, and included in the Millennium Development Goals 2000-2015; Education for All National Plan 2004-2015; Basic Education Reform Agenda, and the UN Development Assistance Framework 2012-2018.

The Medium-Term PDP  specifies government commitments to strengthen mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of child protection laws; to develop strategies to respond to child trafficking and pornography; and to implement an enhanced program for preventing children from being engaged in armed conflict.

The US DOL 2012 report observed that the country had ratified the ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers and enacted into law the Domestic Workers Act, or Batas Kasambahay, and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

It noted the country’s launch of the national Child Labor-Free Philippines Campaign, and the Department of Labor and Employment’s Child Labor-Free Barangay program.

The program, initiated by Secretary Baldoz in 2012, aims to transform identified villages nationwide into child labor-free communities through partnerships with local government units in developing child labor elimination plans with short- and long-term objectives, and convergence of services with various national government agencies, including education services to child laborers and livelihood assistance to their parents.

“I welcome the US DOL’s 2012 report for appreciating the efforts of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III in reducing  and eliminating exploitative child labor, identifying the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, 2011-2016 as one of potent  government policies in reducing the worst forms of child labor,” said Baldoz.

She said the report particularly cited the new national convergence Plan, H.E.L.P. M. E. to remove 893,000 children from hazardous child labor across 15,568 target barangays by 2016 through a convergence strategy that brings down the government’s child labor programs and services down the barangay level, the lowest echelon of governance in the country.

H.E.L.P. stands for health, education, livelihood, and prevention, protection, and prosecution, while M.E. stands for monitoring and evaluation. The convergence program is funded by P9 billion (US$220 million) spread over four years.

“H.E.L.P. M.E., which President Aquino III tasked the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster to formulate, will contribute to the realization of the country’s ultimate Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty through decent work,” said Baldoz.

“By 2016 we aim to have freed at least 75 percent of the 2.9 million child laborers in the country. We intend to vigorously implement H.E.L.P. M.E. through stronger cooperation among partners to ensure that this target is achieved,” she added.

The Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster is chaired by the Sec. Corazon Julito ‘Dinky’ Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, with members composed of the DOLE Sec. Baldoz; Department of Budget and Management Sec. Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad; Department of Health Sec. Enrique Ona; Department of Education Sec. Bro. Armin Luistro; Department of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala; Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. Virgilio Delos Reyes; Department of Environment Sec. Ramon A. Paje; Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Commission Chairman Vice President Jejomar Binay; Commission on Higher Education Chairman Patricia Licuanan, and National Anti-Poverty Commission Sec. Joel Rocamora.

The US DOL report also noted the expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer program, also known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, to include child laborers and its re-design to include child labor as a conditionality. In January this year, the 4Ps was modified through the Conditional Cash Transfer Program for Families in Need of Special Protection to specifically target households of child laborers, with child eligibility raised from age 14 to age 17. It also added a conditionality prohibiting hazardous child labor as a requirement for continued eligibility to the program.

“The policy choices and accompanying investments that have been made in education and social protection by our government must have made considerable impact on the reporting by the US DOL on the progress of our fight against child labor,” Baldoz said.

She added that the information in the US DOL 2012 report on child labor are essential tools in the country’s intensified effort to stop child labor, especially its worst forms.

“The findings and recommendations in the report are valuable inputs that we will consider. The challenge of strict enforcement and sustained implementation of the social programs already in place, backed up by policies, laws, and regulations that already exist are all in our court now. I urge the Filipino people to join us in this fight for the future of our children,” Baldoz said.

With report from the BWSC