Caritas official deplores child labor in mines

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Small-scale gold mining workers carry bags of raw ore from tunnels in the highlands of Benguet. (Photo: R. Lagarde)

Small-scale gold mining workers carry bags of raw ore from tunnels in the highlands of Benguet. (Photo: R. Lagarde)

MANILA, Sept. 30, 2015— A new report that children are working in mines at grave risk to their health affirms the “negative social impact” of mining, a Catholic priest said.

It is estimated that thousands of Filipino children work in dangerous small-scale gold mines, particularly in Camarines Norte and Masbate in the Bicol region.

According to a new report released by Human Right Watch (HRW) on Wednesday, children, some as young as nine, risk injury and are exposed to mercury poisoning working in such conditions.

Oppression not development

Fr. Edu Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary, said the latest report, albeit not a new issue in the Philippines, only confirms the “exploitation” that mining causes.

“It belies the claim that mining brings development. On the contrary, mining oppresses the poor,” Gariguez said.

Children working in mines is considered one of the worst forms of child labor.

While Philippine labor laws prohibits anyone below 18 from engaging in hazardous work including mining, HRW said the Aquino administration “has not done nearly enough” to protect children.

Although the government has ratified treaties and enacted laws to combat the worst forms of child labor, the HRW said “it has largely failed to implement them.”

No penalties

“The government barely monitors child labor in mining and does not penalize employers or withdraw children from these dangerous work environments,” it added.

Chronic poverty is said to be the main reason why children leave school and work, the non-governmental organization Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) earlier said.

According to its research, which was supported by the European Union, there are two child laborers for every 10 households in mining communities.

The study further highlighted that more work needs to be done as there are 5.5 million young Filipinos engaged in child labor, with three million of them in the “worst form of labor.” (R. Lagarde / CBCPNews)

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