Anti-child labor bloc gains cross-section support

COTABATO CITY (September 26, 2023, John Unson) — The foreign-assisted anti-child labor campaign in six southern provinces got a boost this week with pledges of cooperation from more local executives, law enforcement and state security entities.

In the forefront of the efforts to address the decades-old practice of employing children as workers and armed combatants in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are the regional labor and employment, local government and social welfare ministries, the Development Academy of the Bangsamoro and the Police Regional Police Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño Mendoza told reporters Saturday she has directed her constituent-mayors and their provincial social welfare office to support the inter-agency, multi-sector anti-child labor programs in all of the 63 Bangsamoro barangays in different towns in her province.

The 63 predominantly Moro barangays in different towns in Cotabato province in Region 12 that became part of the core territory of BARMM via a plebiscite in 2019 and now grouped together as the Special Geographic Area, or SGA, have government-recognized enclaves of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

“We are ready to help address child labor and use of children as combatants in these 63 barangays even if no longer under us,” Mendoza told reporters via Viber, after learning that more military units and law enforcement outfits have pledged support for the program.

Representatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-BARMM and units in the region of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Navy’s 1st Marine Brigade assured of the support of their superiors to regional child labor programs during a series of workshops here this week.

The workshops, involving representatives from units of the BARMM regional police, were together facilitated by the Ministry of Labor and Employment-BARMM, the International Labour Organization and the non-government Integrated Resource Development for Tri-people, or IRDT.

Facilitators told reporters Saturday the Japanese government, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the ILO are the main benefactors of the cross-section anti-child labor campaign in all six provinces and three cities in the Bangsamoro region.

Bangsamoro Labor Minister Muslimin Sema said he is thankful to the director of the IRDT, Kalma Jikiri-Isnain, and the resource persons in this week’s five-day anti-child labor workshops here, among them Bai Sara Jane Sinsuat, who is an official of MoLE’s Bureau of Employment, Promotion and Welfare, and Said Abdulkasan, a senior DAB staff member, who lectured and moderated discussions about child labor.

“We are grateful to the PDEA-BARMM, the units of the Philippine Coast Guard in the autonomous region and the 1st Marine Brigade, the three latest addition to the multi-sector bloc helping cure these two problems besetting BARMM, child labor and use of children as warriors,” Sema said.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division covering BARMM’s Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte provinces and the 63 Bangsamoro barangays in different towns in Cotabato, is among the government officials who had earlier committed to help implement the foreign-assisted multi-sector Bangsamoro anti-child labor thrusts. (JF Unson)

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