Back (L-R): FFA Planter Mr. Paquit Cuenca, SIFI Board of Trustee Mr. Joey Ledesma, APSSI Planter Mr. Jay Jalandoni, Talisay City Vice Mayor Hon. Neil Lizares, ABK3 LEAP Operations Manager Mr. Jason Befus
Sugar industry stakeholders, government agencies and communities have teamed up to create a Voluntary Code of Conduct aimed to reduce child labor in sugarcane farms in Negros Occidental.
The Code was formally launched on December 10, 2013 at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City during the 1st Annual Gathering of ABK3 LEAP project’s Child Rights Advocates (CRA).
The crafting of the Code was done through a series of consultations with planter federations CONFED, UNIFED and NFSP, agrarian reform beneficiaries, and other sugar industry stakeholders. It was supported by the provincial government, partner government agencies DOLE, DepEd, DILG and DSWD, and ABK3 LEAP project partners SIFI and World Vision.
“The creation of the Voluntary Code of Conduct is a major milestone for the sugar industry in Negros Occidental. We are very happy to see the major federations of planters working together with the communities to strengthen the protection of children. It is our hope that, together, we can implement it in accordance with the spirit of the Code,” shares Ms. Daphne Culanag, ABK3 LEAP Project Director.
The Code was presented to Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and DOLE Provincial Director Maria Victoria Mondragon in a ceremonial turn-over. In response, Vice Governor Lacson shared his concern for the well-being of Negrense children and expressed his support to the initiative.
While it is voluntary, the Code is significant as it serves as a policy guideline and an advocacy framework for all the stakeholders in safeguarding the rights of children and protecting them from hazardous child labor. Founded on national laws and policies on children’s welfare, it reinforces that children below 15 years old should not work and outlines the allowable and unallowable work for children ages 15 to 17 in sugarcane farms agreed upon during the consultations. The Code also underlines the commitments of the different stakeholders and the strategies for its popularization and implementation.
Themed “Paghili-usa, Pagsa-ulog kag Pagpasidungog Para sa Kabataan (Uniting, Celebrating and Honoring the Children)”, the event was attended by more than 300 ABK3 LEAP community volunteers, local government officials and sugarcane planters.