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DOLE 12 eyes declaration of South Cotabato mining village as child labor-free

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region is pushing for the declaration of a mining village in T’boli town in South Cotabato as child labor-free area, with the full enforcement of the prohibition on the employment of children or minors in mining activities in the area.

Yahya Centi, DOLE 12 assistant regional director, said the barangay council of the gold rush village of Kematu in T’boli have committed to finally “put an end” to the usual practice of some local mining financiers and operators of illegally employing minors in their operations.

He said the council passed Resolution 08 last May 14 “eliminating and prohibiting the deployment of minors and under age children” within the village’s mining sites.

Centi said Kematu officials led by barangay chair Mansueto Dela Peña Jr. and barangay labor and employment committee chair Ermun Lumbay, signed a “commitment to action” to maintain their area as child labor-free.

Barangay Kematu was earlier identified by DOLE central office as among the eight villages in Region 12 that were considered as “child labor areas.”

The other areas were Barangays Malire of Antipas, Cadungon and Saguing of Makilala, Presbitero of Pinagkawayan, all in North Cotabato as well as Barangays Lagao, San Isidro and City Heights in this city.

The Provincial Council for the Protection of Children (PCPC) of South Cotabato earlier documented 64 minors who were recruited and employed by mining operators in Kematu.

The council, which is backed by DOLE and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), said the child laborers in the area worked as "abanteros," packers and haulers in small-scale mining projects.

A number of the minors reportedly worked in "banlas" or sluice mining operations, a method deemed illegal by the provincial government due to its destructive effect on the environment.

“These children are in school and not working in the mining areas doing tedious tasks such as pagbabanlas (sluice mining), hauling and hammering of stones,” Centi said in a statement.

In response to the village’s commitment in fighting child labor, he said DOLE 12 gave out backpacks and school supply packages to the identified 64 child laborers.

The official said the agency will make sure that the 64 minors will be in school when it opens on June 4.

Kematu barangay chair dela Peña said they will prioritize the enrollment of the former child laborers in elementary and secondary schools in the area.

He said the council will strictly monitor the enforcement of the resolution in all mining sites in the village.

DOLE and DILG Region 12 launched a series of advocacy activities against child labor in Barangay Kematu last year in a bid to end the worsening child labor cases in the area.

The initiative led to the reactivation of Kematu’s Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in coordination with the PCPC.

With 70 percent of its population composed of indigenous peoples, T’boli town remains mired in poverty despite its rich mineral resources mainly gold and silver.

The town hosts the T’boli gold-silver project of Canadian firm Cadan Resources Corp, involving 84.20 hectares under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement 090-97-XI.

by: PNA




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