By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:27:00 01/21/2011
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is one of over 120 countries where the “worst forms of child labor” continue to exist, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and often denying children the chance to attend school and learn the skills they need to become productive adults, according to a US Department of Labor report.
The exploitation of an unspecified number of Filipino children in prostitution, pornography and the sex tourism industry, as well as agriculture, domestic work, drug trafficking and child soldiering, is a “significant problem,” said the report which was posted on the US Embassy website.
US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis submitted the report “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” last Dec. 15 to US Vice President Joseph Biden and the US Congress.
Seven pages of the 753-page report containing profiles of 125 countries, are devoted to the child labor situation in the Philippines.
Three other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members—Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia—also figured in the report. No mention was made of child labor in Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
According to the US labor department, Filipino children, “primarily girls, are trafficked from rural to urban areas for forced domestic service and commercial sex exploitation.”
While there are no reports of children in the military, child soldiering is a problem among anti-government and terrorist organizations, it said.
The secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front “has made commitments to stop the recruitment and use of children as child soldiers, but the current status of children in its ranks is unclear,” according to the report.
It said both the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group and communist New People’s Army, “both terrorist organizations, continue to recruit and use child soldiers.”
The report also said that many Filipino children are exploited in agriculture, “where they often work long hours, perform physically arduous tasks, use dangerous tools, and face a high risk of occupational injury.”
“Children are also commonly employed as domestic servants. Many child domestics work long hours and their isolation in homes makes them susceptible to sexual harassment and physical abuse. Domestic workers are sometimes subjected to forced labor.”
Children are involved in compressor mining to extract gold, which requires them to dive into pools of mud using an oxygen tube, and in deep-sea fishing where they dive from platforms to cast and retrieve nets in deep waters, which can result in falls, drowning and injuries.
Work at home
Some Filipino children also “work in home-based manufacturing industries that range from making fireworks to fashion accessories” which can be harmful because children work longer hours with no supervision, the report said.
The report noted government efforts to strengthen its legal and policy framework to combat the worst forms of child labor by creating anti-child pornography legislation and granting labor inspectors the authority to close businesses violating child labor laws.
However, it said “significant gaps remain in child labor law enforcement efforts (while) existing social protection programs are not sufficient to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor