MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) Department of Labor (DOL) listed 13 Filipino goods believed to be produced through child labor including bananas, coconuts, corn, fashion accessories, fish, gold, hogs, pornography, pyrotechnics, rice, rubber, sugarcane, and tobacco.
The goods were outlined in a 39-page report released last December 1 by the US DOL, with a separate report released by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Wednesday, December 10, on the country's "significant advancement" in responding to the worst forms of child labor.
The US DOL's 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor challenged consumers to reflect on the supply chains of the products they buy.
"Who picked the cotton for the shirt on your back? Who cut the cane for the sugar in your coffee? Who fired the kiln to make the bricks in your fireplace?" the report began.
"None of the products we consume on a daily basis should be made by an adult who is forced to produce them or a child under conditions that violate international law," the report further read.
Not a single good supplied by the Philippines was reported to be produced through forced labor, but the country is among states with the most number of goods produced through child labor.
The list – which includes 136 goods from 74 source countries across the world – is mandated under the US' Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005 as part of "additional activities to monitor and combat forced labor and child labor in foreign countries."
Along with the Philippines, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia supply a relatively large number of goods included in the TVPRA list.
As a disclaimer, the US DOL explained that the number of goods per country does not necessarily reflect the seriousness of child labor and forced labor problems in those countries.
"Often, these are countries that have more openly acknowledged the problems, have better research and have allowed information on these issues to be disseminated," the report read.
The Philippines recently ranked first among Asian countries in terms of government response to modern servitude, including human trafficking, forced labor, and slavery, with an above-average rating in the entire Asia-Pacific region. (READ: PH efforts vs modern slavery best in Asia – report)
The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) was prepared by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based international organization aimed at ending modern slavery by generating high-quality research and promoting private-public sector coordination.
It likewise recommended that the business sector identify any forced labor in its supply chains.
Positive assessment, challenges ahead
Another US DOL report – hailed by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz as "an important tool" to combat child trafficking in its worst forms – was also made public by the Philippine DOLE on Wednesday, after it received its copy.
"The Philippines was the only country in the [Asia-Pacific] region to receive an assessment of Significant Advancement for making several meaningful efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor," the report read, confirming the earlier findings of Walk Free Foundation.
Still, it said "a lack of understanding of trafficking and the anti-trafficking legislation among many judges, prosecutors, social service workers, and law enforcement officials have impeded more successful prosecutions."
"No prosecutions of police complicit with traffickers have been reported," the report added.
"Many cases of trafficking of minors, particularly for child labor, continue to be undocumented for fear of retaliation from employers," it read further. – Rappler.com