No lesser evil

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By Noemi C. Fetalvero

Two empty bottles

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


FILIPINO child is fortunate enough to be one of the pupils in the classroom.

According to the statistics from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), 5.5 million children are engaged in child labor. The age ranges from five to 17 years old. Child labor has proliferated because the enablers are the parents themselves.

In the mountain barangays of Cotabato and the Cordillera mountains children ages seven to 10 are seen pulling heavy logs down the access road where truck drivers of wealthy illegal loggers will do the loading.

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You can also see children in some shores in Albay, scooping black sand with the use of a big magnet. Answer.com explained the use of the black sand: “The sand is black because of its iron component derived from the volcano and this is a trade-able commodity used in steel making.”

In some areas of the country, our children scrape the sides of a mountain to mine decorative rocks. These rocks weigh from five to seven kilos and they carry the heavy load on their delicate shoulders down the highway where passersby or hardware entrepreneurs purchase them on site.

Some of these children who live by the seaside harvest bangus fingerlings or you can see them during low tide, digging the sand for some sea shells. Some are hired to dive to collect some corals or starfish for exportation. The child labor activity though has been curtailed due to environmental laws prohibiting the harvest of corals to protect our coral reefs.

The most common scenario especially in our city streets is the scavenging activity for stuff to be recycled. With sacks on hand, children dig through garbage bins, landfills and sometimes risk their lives by climbing up dump trucks on the move so they can fish out some recyclable stuff even before the refuse arrives at the dumping sites.

In a poor country like ours, is child labor a better alternative to exploitation of children by criminal syndicates? The lesser evil does not make things right.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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