ESTABLISHMENTS that hire minors should consider stopping this practice, as the Department of Labor and Employment 7 warns it is keeping an eye on them.

In a recent interview, Dole 7 officer-in-charge Exequiel Sarcauga said the agency, through its labor law compliance officers, is constantly monitoring establishments in the region for child labor incidents.

“Yes, we have ongoing inspections on that (child labor),” Sarcauga said.

Last month, Dole 7 rescued three child laborers, all 17 years old, at the SM Seaside City project at the South Road Properties.

Two of the teenagers were employed by Pamcore Steel Corp. and one was hired by Top Glass Aluminum Construction. These establishments are two of the 42 subcontractors of the mall.

“We closed the establishment, gipahunong namo ang contractor (we ordered the contractor to stop work),” Sarcauga said. The order was carried out last June 18.

“The law clearly prohibits the employment of children, especially in industries considered hazardous like one in the construction,” Sarcauga said, adding that Dole does not tolerate such misdemeanors and will make sure that erring establishments will be made accountable.

In June 19, the labor agency facilitated the child labor rescue operation.

Two of the minors, who were originally from Negros Occidental, were brought back home, and the other went back to his family in Ormoc City. The transportation expenses were shouldered by the subcontractors.

“We asked for the assistance of our counterparts in Region 8 and 6 where two of the laborers we’ve rescued came from. We requested them to facilitate the children’s safe return to their hometown,” Sarcauga said.

In June 22, Dole 7 issued a conditional lifting of the stoppage order after the removal of the child laborers from the project site.

The latest data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) in 2011 said there are around 5.5 million child laborers aged 15 to 17 in the country and around three million of them are exposed to environments that are considered hazardous.

In Central Visayas, 219,000 were identified as child laborers.

Republic Act 9231, which was passed in 2003 to amend RA 7610, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, allows children below 18 years old to work, as long as the child “works directly under the sole responsibility of his/her parents or legal guardian and where only members of his/her family are employed.”

Child labor happens when there is an “illegal employment of children below the age of 15, where they are not directly under the sole responsibility of their parents or legal guardian.”

However, this may extend to the situation of children below the age of 18 who are employed in hazardous occupations.

Dole, in its website, cleared that minors are permitted to work in any economic activity not considered child labor, but not more than eight hours a day and in no case beyond 40 hours a week.

In addition, they shall not be allowed to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following day, and employers should provide the child with access to elementary and secondary education.

Sarcauga said that if anyone notices a child laborer in their respective workplaces, they should contact the Dole regional office.

“We cannot really say that Region 7 is a child-labor free place,” Sarcauga said, but added that the labor agency is determined to put a stop to the practice.