Tougher measures vs child labor amid pandemic pressed
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday enjoined the National Council Against Child Labor to intensify the crackdown on child labor amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Gatchalian made the call after the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse the global decline in child labor.
He noted that in the last two decades, there were 94 million fewer children in child labor but the two agencies warned that this gain is now at risk.
Gatchalian said the NCLC should ensure that Republic Act No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act remains in full force.
He added that RA 9231, which amends RA No. 7610 to cover the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and protection of children from labor exploitation, should likewise be fully enforced.
“Ang ating mga kabataan ay dapat nag-aaral at hindi napipilitang maghanapbuhay upang malagpasan ang krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” said Gatchalian, who heads the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
(The youth should go to schools and should not be forced to work just to survive the COVID-19 crisis.)
“Kung hindi natin mapipigilan ang pagdami ng mga kabataang napipilitang mag hanapbuhay, mas nanganganib silang makaranas ng iba’t ibang uri ng pang-aabuso,” he also said.
(If we cannot prevent the increase in the number of youth who are forced to work, there is a bigger danger that they will be abused.)
The senator pointed out that child labor in the Philippines was already a challenge even before the pandemic.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s 2018 findings on the worst forms of child labor, 3.2 million children in the Philippines aged five to 17 are engaged in child labor, including approximately 3 million involved in hazardous work.
The same report from the US labor department showed that children in the Philippines are engaged in dangerous tasks in both agriculture and mining.
It also found that the worst forms of child labor affecting children in the Philippines include the recruitment of children in armed conflict and commercial sexual exploitation.
Gatchalian warned that with 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some children would end up dropping out of school and look for a job to help their families survive as in the case in some countries.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian likewise emphasized the role of subsidies to provide income security for workers and families, and keep children off the work force.
According to Gatchalian, this adds urgency to passing the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Senate Bill No. 1564) or Bayanihan 2.0 to continuously provide relief to affected families.
Bayanihan 2.0 contains provisions that would provide tuition subsidies to students facing financial difficulties but are not covered by government educational subsidies or voucher programs.
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