THE Catholic Church, through its social action arm, has reiterated its strong objection to mining activities in the country, saying they bring no development but rather exploit only the country’s natural and human resources, particularly children.
Fr. Edu Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary, on Friday pointed out that the use of minors, some as young as 9 years old , as workers in illegal small-scale mining has been in existence for a long time but the exploitation continues.
“It belies the claim that mining brings development. On the contrary, mining oppresses the poor,” Gariguez said.
He was reacting to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based human rights group, that the Philippine government has not done enough to protect children from hazards of child labor, which put their lives under extreme danger.
The report’s author Jilian Kippenberg, associate children’s rights director of HRW, said Filipino children are working in absolutely “terrifying conditions” in small-scale gold mines.
“Although the government has ratified treaties and enacted laws to combat the worst forms of child labor, it has largely failed to implement them: The government barely monitors child labor in mining and does not penalize employers or withdraw children from these dangerous work environments,” the HRW report said.
“The government’s lack of concrete action reflects not only insufficient staff and technical capacity, but also a lack of political will by national and local officials to take measures that will not be well-received by the local population in impoverished areas, or by mine owners and traders that rely on child labor,” the report added.
According to a 2011 child labor survey, about 3 million children work in hazardous conditions in the Philippines brought about by poverty.
The HRW report was based on field research conducted between November 2014 and June 2015 in the provinces of Camarines Norte and Masbate.
The Philippine government, it pointed out, should improve its child monitoring and protection systems and do more to children who dropped out of school, address the ill-effects of poverty and enhance its social support programs.
It called on the government to support the creation of a legal, regulated, child-labor free, small-scale gold mining sector that helps rural families thrive, and also introduced mercury-free processing methods and taking special steps to protect children from mercury.
Furthermore, it said, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, as well as international gold trading and refining firms, should also put in place robust safeguards to oblige their supplier to source only child-labor-free gold and monitor child labor.