By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — With the ratification of the Bicameral Conference (BICAM) report, Social Watch Philippines (SWP) welcomes the increased investment for child protection programs amounting to PhP622.2 million under the Department of Education (DepEd) and PhP178.5 million under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
“This one-step gain draws us closer to securing the budget allocation for child protection programs. The remaining step to further guarantee this is for President Duterte to finally stamp its approval to the 2022 National Budget without change to these additional allocations for protecting children,” SWP said.
The ratified BICAM report incorporated the following proposed increases in the DepEd budget in contribution to the fulfillment of the protection of children from abuse, violence, and neglect: i) PhP100 million for the provision of instructional materials for learners with disabilities; ii) appropriated additional PhP510 million for the Last Mile Schools Program for children of school age situated in geographical isolated, disadvantaged and conflict areas; iii) allocated PhP 22.145 million to the agency’s Child Protection Program in order to fund their planning, strategizing and monitoring of activities related to child protection policy, capability building of teachers and child protection committees, the conduct of research and data management, and strengthening child protection reporting and referral mechanism of schools.
The BICAM also provided an additional PhP178.5 million increase to the Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program under the DOLE. Meanwhile, SWP also proposed PhP22.254million for the plantilla staffing positions for Women and Children Protection Units of seven (7) DOH hospitals, which we will continue to advocate hoping that it will resonate with the executive and the legislative in the coming years.
These alternative budget proposals of increased investments have been pushed in the light of growing abuses against children in recent years, including this pandemic. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported in its latest global estimates an increase in child labor in 20 years and warned about millions of children at risk because of the onset of COVID-19. Many child workers have yet to be fully removed for child labor, while other children were deprived of education either because of their disabilities or their area of residence. The 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children survey by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and UNICEF reported three out of five Filipino children being physically and psychologically abused and bullied, and almost one in five being sexually violated. While from January to June 2020, the Women and Child Protection Unit (WCPU) responded to 3,368 cases of child abuse and 879 cases of abuse against women. By end of 2020, a total of 6,926 children were served by the WCPUs, 52% of which constituted child sexual abuse cases.
“Budgetary support for child protection programs is very crucial especially at the time of crisis. It cannot take a backseat over excuses of lack of funds and budget because of COVID or any other priorities for that matter. And to fully realized children’s rights, the President should uphold and approve the 2022 increased investment for children protection,” SWP added. (ai/mtvn)