Labor department, VTI seal pact to rescue child laborers

Erwin P. Nicavera

THE Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in Western Visayas formalized its partnership with bus firm Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI) to boost efforts in rescuing child laborers in the region.

Dole-Western Visayas Director Johnson Cañete said the partnership with the Ceres Liner operator is “the first of its kind” as far as measures to address child labor woes in the country are concerned.

Cañete led the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signing with VTI officials at Dole Provincial Office in Bacolod City Tuesday, February 13.

The partnership is relative to the implementation of the program dubbed “Bring Home a Child” which will form part of the agency’s Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program (CLPEP).

The CLPEP aims to prevent and eliminate child labor through protection, withdrawal, healing and reintegration of child workers into a caring society.

Under which, the Dole will act as the “main actor” along with other partner-agencies comprising the Committee for the Rights of Children in validating reports on child labor and conducting actual rescue operations.

VTI will provide free transportation services to rescued child laborers to make sure that they are sent back home.

“This is a model initiative which we want other regions to replicate,” Cañete said, adding that the Dole-6 will submit a copy of the agreement to the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns to encourage replication of the program.

Cañete said they have been partnering with the bus company for various endaevors even before.

“We just want to formalize this particular program now,” he added.

The partnership addresses the "gap" in transporting rescued children since the Dole has no specific allocation for such expenses, he said.

Hernan Omecillo, VTI vice president for administration and management information system, said partnering with the Dole is one way for the company to fulfill its social commitment and responsibility.

Omecillo said VTI is willing to expand partnerships in Dole regional offices to cover more areas.

“We will provide free transportation services in any area where our units exist,” he said, adding that “as long as there are child laborers, our partnership with the Dole stays.”

Considered child laborers are those 17 years old and below being exposed to hazardous work especially among industries like mining, pyrotechnics, fishing, agriculture, among others.

Dole records showed that are almost 172,000 child laborers in Western Visayas as of 2011.

Western Visayas ranks fourth with the highest prevalence of child labor in the country next to Regions 4A, 3 and 12, it added.

Cañete said they have yet to validate the figure through a survey to be conducted this year.

He cited poverty as still the major reason why child labor in the country remains prevalent.

As a measure to prevent and eliminate child labor, the Dole, starting this year, will intensify its Government Internship Program (GIP).

Through this, fresh graduates whether of technical-vocational or four-year courses will be absorbed through government internship, Cañete said.

“This is on top of other measures like 4Ps of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and skills training and scholarship program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority geared toward alleviating the people’s living condition,” he added.