6,800 child laborers saved in Cebu, Negros Oriental

September 4, 2009 CEBU CITY – Some 6,800 child laborers in the provinces of Cebu and Negros Oriental have been rescued and prevented from joining exploitative labor and hazardous workplaces through a United States Department of Labor-funded project that combats child labor through education.

At least 1, 984 child laborers from Cebu and 4,863 from Negros Oriental have been withdrawn from hazardous workplaces and given educational assistance as of August 31 this year, records from the ABK2 project showed.

Scavenging has been the leading form of hazardous child labor in Cebu with 902 kids rescued, followed by domestic work with 624 kids, commercial sexual exploitation with 360, mining and quarrying with 91, fishing with 4, and drug peddling with 3.

In Negros Oriental, 4,591 children who were working in sugarcane plantations were pulled out from their workplace, followed by 162 kids in domestic work and 110 child laborers from commercial agriculture.

Nationwide, the project has rescued and assisted 23,095 child laborers. But ABK2 Project Director Daphne Culanag said the figure is insignificant compared to the estimated four million child laborers around the country.

“The figure is just a drop in the bucket of the four million child laborers we want to help,” said Culanag during the especial Kapihan sa PIA in Cebu City Thursday.

During the first phase of the project dubbed ABK, 31,300 children, mostly from sugarcane plantations, were assisted and provided with educational aid. In the ABK2 project, the second phase, Culanag said the focus is in new areas and they hope to bring more child laborers back to schools.

Statistics show that 4 million children aged 5-17 years old are economically active, 2.4 million of which are in high risks jobs or in the worst forms of child labor – mining, deep-sea fishing, pyrotechnics, domestic and agricultural work, scavenging and even prostitution.

About 2 million of them worked between 1 to 4 hours a day; 1.3 million worked from 5-8 hours a day; and 360,000 worked for more than 8 hours per day.

And, out of love for their family, many of these children endured abuses and chose not to tell their parents what they've been through.

One-third of the working children (1.3 million) did not attend school, while 1.2 million attended school but still encountered problems such as difficulty in catching up with the lessons (280,000); high cost of school supplies, books, transportation (258,000); far distance of school from residence (216,000); unsupportive teachers (43,200); and lack of time to study (34,800).

“Behind these statistics are children who need assistance," said Culanag.

ABK2 is funded by the US Department of Labor under a cooperative agreement which aims to contribute to the sustainable reduction of exploitive child labor in the Philippines. It is implemented by World Vision Development Foundation, ChildFund International (formerly known as Christian Children’s Fund), and ERDA. (Manila Bulletin)

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