Child labor

I was one of the guests at the i-Speak media Forum at City Hall yesterday and I issued the following statement:

The picture featured at the homepage of the G8 summit website in Hokkaido, Japan on July 7-9, 2008 is truly disturbing. It shows the globe being carried by four children. The children were smiling all right and appear that they have no burden.

But, millions like them are not. They carry on their shoulders the brunt of child labor that involves over 2 million in the Philippines and 200 million worldwide.

Unfortunately, this global problem is not in the agenda of the world economic superpowers. The children used in the website were mere decorations to lull us into believing that the world’s rich nations look after their care.

It is sad to note that efforts by the Dutch Government to include child labor in the international agenda of the world’s most powerful nations have fallen on deaf ears.

So, in this summit, nothing will be discussed on the issue on child labor. This comes at a time when we are marking the World Day Against Child Labor here in Davao City on June 28, 2008.

Here are the grim statistics on the issue:

Global child labor – over 200 million boys and girls aged 5-14

70 percent or 132 million are in agriculture

Other worst forms of child labor – construction, mining, domestic service, commercial sex and illicit activities

Child trafficking – 1.2 million a year

Children in armed conflicts as child soldiers – 300,000

In the Philippines:

11 percent of children ages 5-14 are involved in economic activities (2.2 million in 2001)

65.4 % are in agriculture and commercial plantations

29.4 % in services; and

5.3 % in industrial services

Worst forms of child labor (in addition to agriculture, construction, mining, domestic service and commercial sex) also include pyrotechnic production and muroami fishing

Also increasing trend of children in armed conflict

Children should be in school and enjoy their childhood. They should not be exploited and forced into dangerous and hazardous work.

We condemn the use of child labor and child soldiers here and throughout the world.

We call on the Arroyo government and world leaders to address child labor not just as a social or economic issue. This is an issue of fundamental human and children’s rights!

6:22 a.m.

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Family Day

Today is National Day of Families.

My heart goes to this Filipino family who on their first day immigrating to another land landed on the news.

Bloggers all over the world also mark today Unite for Human Rights. 

Here’s what we can do as individuals to advance the rights of the child, like the lost boy in Canada or child laborers at an Ericsson supplier in Bangladesh.

Paul replies to NPA threat

From my inbox, here’s Paul Dominguez’s reply to the New People’s Army death sentence issued on the anniversary of the revolutionary group last March 29:

“I was surprised to receive information that the Valentin Palamine Command of the New People’s Army has issued a threat against my person and accused me of being involved in “deceit, coercion and murder” due to my involvement in the exploration phase of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The allegations being made against me are all the more disconcerting since I resigned from SMI as president on April 1, 2007 when Xstrata exercised its option to acquire a majority stake of SMI and took over the management of the company.

For the record, the accusations being made against me are totally unfounded and without basis in truth and in fact.

It is not true that I caused the militarization of Tampakan during my tenure as SMI president or that the exploration activities conducted by SMI dispossessed communities of their land and livelihood. On the contrary, the investments being made by SMI have created opportunities for the Tampakan residents and have the full support of all the lumad tribal councils, the barangay councils and the municipalities presently involved with the project. These facts are easily verifiable.

The principal focus of the management team during my tenure as SMI President was to undertake social development and environmental programs to precisely ensure that the host communities would be the first to benefit from the investments being undertaken in Tampakan. These programs were well received by the community and enabled the company to carry out its exploration activities without any major security-related incidents.

In fact, several of these community-based programs received awards and accolades from both local and foreign entities. The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) honored SMI as the recipient of its highest award – the Presidential Mining Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) in December, 2006 in recognition of the company’s programs and projects for environmental protection and development of the host and neighboring communities. PMSEA also honored the company with a Special Award for the Best Mining Forest Program.

Under my watch, SMI initiated community development activities in education, capacity building and health, with special focus on the indigenous communities in whose lands the mine may eventually operate. As a result of these education initiatives, over 8000 school children in Tampakan, Colombio and Kiblawan continue to receive scholarship grants and financial assistance. In addition, several of these innovative development programs were recognized as model projects by our national officials as well as visiting international dignitaries.

In a visit to Tampakan in 2006, Tanzanian Mining Minister Lau Masha lauded the project, saying that he would encourage mining investors in Tanzania to “learn from Tampakan” and would push for the adoption of SMI’s best practices in Tanzania ’s mining projects. Among the innovative programs that Minister Masha wanted to replicate in Tanzania was the SMI Competence Center which undertakes skills development and adult literacy programs for the host communities to enable them to be the first to be gainfully employed by the project. This unique program was given the National Kabalikat Award for Industry by Tesda in 2007.

During my tenure, SMI also encouraged the three municipalities presently involved in the project to form an alliance to accelerate growth and development and jointly address whatever issues that may emerge in the course of development of the mining project. This initiative referred to as the KITACO Growth Area ensures that all sectors within the three municipalities of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio which are in three separate provinces are consulted at all times thus assuring full project transparency.

Over the last four decades, I have been involved in both government and private sector initiatives to bring about peace and development in Mindanao . My term as presidential assistant for Mindanao during the Ramos administration was characterized by significant economic growth and infrastructure development in the island as well as more cooperation with our neighbors in ASEAN.

Today, I continue to be involved in several private sector and civic organizations whose objectives are to promote peace and development, poverty alleviation and sustainable development particularly in Mindanao . I remain steadfast in my commitment to help accelerate the development of Mindanao .”

Playing God

That’s the whole trouble of playing God.

When one takes the life of another, can a mere apology bring back the life of the victim? Will the New People’s Army saying “we’re sorry for killing Vicente Ferrazini” be enough?

Something is truly fundamentally wrong when rebels claim they wage a so-called “just revolutionary war” yet targets unarmed civilians.

No, your apology is not accepted.

(6:50 a.m.)

Activist High Court

Kudos to Chief Justice Reynato Puno for being named as Times Person of the Year (Manila Times).

Recent activism by the Supreme Court as the last bastion of democracy are being recognized elsewhere.

In Nigeria, the whole Supreme Court, not just its chief magistrate, earned the Man of the Year award.

Hope to have more of their like in 2008.

(2:05 p.m.)