The “festering” problem of child labor in the Philippines and in the Davao areas is one of the results of the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, according to child advocates and peasant groups.

By Germelina A. Lacorte
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — As a 10-year-old child, Marlon Makilan had to work in a sugarcane plantation in Sarangani province a decade ago. Rain or shine, I had to work, Makilan recalled.

Because we were children, we were only paid 40 pesos to 50 peso per day, but we had no choice because we were very poor,” Makilan said. “I cut sugarcane and load them in containers.

According to Makilan, some children as young as five to six years old worked with him. They would tie up the sugarcane in bundles and carry these to waiting vans. When were tired, we could not complain, he said.

Now 20, Makilan is on his third year in college. He considered himself lucky — many children are still out there, working in the fields, he said.

Child advocates in this city have blamed the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for the worsening poverty in the countryside, which, in turn, pushes more children to work long hours in the farms and plantations.

Eliza Apit, unit director of the Kamalayan Development Foundation, said that dire economic conditions are forcing parents to send their children to sugarcane plantations in Sarangani province and other areas in Mindanao as farm laborers, where they work long hours under the scorching sun and are exposed to hazards posed by toxic chemicals and sharp farm implements.

Apit said the rising incident of child labor in agricultural plantations can be traced to the governments failed land reform program. Sending their children to work was against their will, Apit said, referring to the parents who dragged their children to work in the farms.

I was told they only need three things to stop their children from working: the minimum wage, a six-day workweek, and genuine land reform, said Apit, whose child-focused group has been working with child laborers in Kiblawan.

Apit said parents wanted the minimum wage implemented because they were only receiving a pay of 70 pesos to 80 pesos a day, which is way below the prevailing minimum wage for agriculture workers in the region. They also demanded a six-day workweek instead of the two or three-day work week theyre currently allowed.

“They wanted it because, at present, theyre only working two to three days work week, which are not enough to support their families. At only 70 pesos a day, a two-day workweek makes it very hard for the family to survive, Apit said.

But most of all, people are clamoring for genuine land reform so they can have their lands that can pull them out of poverty, she said.

comments powered by Disqus