ABK3 LEAP, in partnership with the Province of Negros Occidental and its 15 partner municipalities, celebrated a provincial-wide World Day Against Child Labor (WDACL) on August 23, 2013, from 1-5pm, at Hacienda Binitin, Murcia, through the hospitality of Mayor Andrew Montelibano.
About a thousand participants, including officials from LGUs and government agencies, sugar workers and planters, volunteers, children and partners attended the activity.
The provincial WDACL event, with the theme “Sugar is sweeter without Child Labor” was held to raise awareness on the hazards of child labor and importance of child rights, especially in the sugarcane industry, and highlight the proactive efforts of LGU partners and sugar industry stakeholders in Negros Occidental to create child labor-free communities and workplaces. Moreover, the event also aimed to advocate for a convergence between local and national stakeholders for the creation of more enabling policies and support programs to reduce child labor in the sugarcane industry.
A caravan of decorated vehicles with the delegates from the different municipalities set out for Hacienda Binitin from the Provincial Lagoon in Bacolod City at 1PM. In the morning, a poster making contest was held for elementary and high schools in Murcia, which were then showcased at the event.
Two of the highlights of this gathering were the presentation of a draft Voluntary Code of Conduct for the Reduction of Child Labor in Negros Occidental (a product of consultation with the farmer-landowners and other sugar industry stakeholders) and Barangay Ordinances and Resolutions related to this issue.
National and provincial officials, such as DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, SRA Administrator Gina Martin, Vice Governor Eugenio Lacson, Congressman of 3rd District Albee Benitez, Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella, and Murcia Mayor Andrew Montelibano participated in the event and expressed their support to combat child labor in the sugarcane farms of Negros Occidental, the sugar capital of the country.
“Before this event I believed sugar is sweeter with higher prices, but now I believe sugar is sweeter with no child labor,” remarked Vice Governor Lacson.
Key individuals from the sugar industry, including representatives from the 3 largest sugar federations, Mr. Joey Gaston of CONFED; Mr. Chris Abunda of NSFP; and Mr. Peb Reyes of UNIFED, presented the draft sugar industry Voluntary Code of Conduct to signify the industry’s commitment to create child labor-free farms.
As of July 2013, ABK3 LEAP is assisting 11,813 children and 7,902 households in 15 municipalities in Negros Occidental namely: Bacolod, Bago, Cauayan, Escalante, Kabankalan, La Castellana, Manapla, Moises Padilla, Murcia, Sagay, San Carlos, Silay, Talisay, Toboso, and Victorias.