Philippine bishop voices alarm over child workers

Calls for combined effort to tackle problems causing children to work in dangerous occupations
Philippine bishop voices alarm over child workers

Children in an urban poor community share food they were able to solicit from the streets of Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has warned of a growing number of child workers being exposed to dangerous working conditions.

Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Catechism and Catholic Education at the bishops' conference, said the situation was alarming and saddening.

"The root of this sad reality is poverty and lack of livelihood options," said the prelate, adding that children have the right to the basic necessities of life that society has failed to provide.

"The situation of the suffering children and those who are deprived of their rights and dignity leaves a great challenge to us as a church and as a society," Bishop Mallari said.

The Labor Department, in a recent report, said there are over 7,000 child workers, ranging from ages four to 17, in and around capital Manila. 

The report revealed that most of the children work as street vendors, while others are engaged in waste management, construction, transportation, domestic work and manufacturing.

The report, released last week, also showed that 24 percent of child laborers are not attending school due to lack of financial support or are not interested in education at all.

Meanwhile, estimates put the number of child laborers across the Philippines at more than two million. 

A  study by the International Labor Organization found that about 95 percent of these child laborers are engaged in hazardous work.

Bishop Mallari called for a cooperative effort in solving the problems that lead to child labor. "God entrusted to us his beloved children," he said. "Ours is a task of taking care of them and being with them in their values formation." 

In 2018, the US Labor Department warned in a report that a large number of children in the Philippines are still forced into sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.

The report, however, noted that the Philippines had made "a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor."

It noted that the government had already started a process of profiling child laborers and introduced guidelines to remove them from child labor and connect them with the services they need.

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