The Department of Labor and Employment facilitated the return this week of four child laborers found working at excavation sites at the highway in Barangay Calumangan, Bago City, to Leyte, DOLE regional director Ponciano Ligutom, said yesterday.
Ligutom said the minors, whose ages range from 16 to 17 years old, were working for R.S. Developer Co. Inc., a job contractor of SMART Communications Inc.
He said the rescue of the children was made after he received a report from people in the area last week on the presence of children working at the project site where excavation is underway for the ground setting of fiber optic cables of SMART.
The minors, who all came from Leyte, were recruited and transported to Negros Occidental through the port of Escalante City. Some came along with their families without even knowing the names of the persons standing as subcontractors, a DOLE press release said.
In a debriefing conducted by DOLE, it was learned that the child workers were paid their wages through the “pakyaw” scheme at P80 per meter with about 4-feet deep excavation. Payment was done after the one kilometer stretch or about seven to 10 days interval, the press release said.
The DOLE also found that the children were exposed to danger as they were working just a foot from the highway, without any protective equipment like gloves and boots, it added.
They were made to sleep in a shelter made of polyethylene sacks and canvas tarps put up just beside the excavation area along the highway, it also said.
Ligutom said the R.S. Developer Co. Inc., a Manila-based contractor, has violated the anti-child labor law or Republic Act No. 9231, and the occupational safety and health standards of the Labor Code of the Philippines.
The DOLE ordered the contractor to repatriate the minors immediately, and to pay them their salaries.*