In observance of the World Day Against Child Labor, Senator Loren Legarda said that ending child labor is a must, stressing the right of children to a life free from violence, exploitation and abuse.
According to the United Nations, around 168 million children remain trapped in child labor and many of them live in areas affected by conflict and disaster.
“Millions of children are exposed to multiple forms of abuses such as sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, forced labor, internal displacement, among others. Disasters and armed conflicts make them even more vulnerable to abuses as poor women and children are preyed upon by human trafficking syndicates,” said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Finance, Foreign Relations, and Climate Change.
The veteran legislator said that the situation requires a multi-disciplinary protection system, which involves stricter implementation of anti-trafficking and anti-child labor laws, providing livelihood opportunities to parents so they can send their children to school, coordinated response among different concerned agencies and strengthened international cooperation.
The seasoned lawmaker said that in the Philippines, child labor should be addressed with the help of legal measures already in place such as the Anti-Child Labor Law, the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and the Domestic Workers Act.
The Anti-Child Labor Law, which Legarda co-authored, protects children from being engaged into work outside the protection of their parents or guardian, and that which might endanger their life, safety and development.
The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which the Senator principally sponsored, protects children from being trafficked through its strengthened provisions which also covers attempted trafficking and accessory or accomplice liability.
The Domestic Workers Act, which Legarda co-authored and co-sponsored, deems it unlawful to employ children below 15 years of age as domestic worker, while those who are 15 years old but below 18 years of age, are considered as working children and are protected under the Anti-Child Labor Act.
Meanwhile, since children in disaster and conflict areas become more vulnerable to trafficking, proactive measures to prevent disasters should be intensified through the implementation of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act and the Climate Change Law.
The lady senator also said that there is now a law, the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, which mandates government to establish and implement a strategic program of action to provide children affected by disasters, calamities and other emergency situations with utmost support and assistance necessary for their immediate recovery and to protect them against all forms of abuse and exploitation.
“We must strictly implement these laws to end child labor and protect our children from circumstances that will affect their survival and normal development. The time will come when they must work, but for as long as they are children, they must be protected, cared for, and assured their rights as children,” she concluded.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. The theme for this year’s observance is “In conflicts and disasters, protect children from child labor.”