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In 2003, Republic Act (RA) 9231 or “An Act Providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Child” was passed to serve as legal framework for the work against child labor in the country.  It amended and enhanced Republic Act 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act”. In the past 14 years, concerns have been raised about the degree of effectiveness and adequacy of the law as an instrument in addressing child labor.  Both the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in its comments for the Philippines in 2011 and the US Department of Labor (USDOL) in its Worst Forms of Child Labor Report for 2012, for example, have expressed concern about how this has been used to a very few convictions. On this issue, prosecutors have pointed to the lighter sanctions provided by RA 9231 which forces them to use RA 10364, the country’s anti-trafficking law, to process child labor cases instead.

Evaluations on the implementation of the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL) have cited gaps in the operations of the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), e.g., lack of legal mandate, absence of dedicated secretariat, and absence of a program budget, as factors for insufficient implementation.  These elements are not stipulated in RA 9231 which is in contrast to how RA 10364 provides for the creation of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), designating it a dedicated secretariat, and allocating funds for its operations.

In 2013, because of the passage of the RA 10533, the country’s basic education act which pushed the age of completion of compulsory education to 18 years old, children 15 to below 18 years old have been allowed to combine work and studies.  However, existing provisions of RA 9231 do not allow for working youth to effectively do this as it provides for work up to 10 p.m. and more than 8 hours for this age range, for example.

If these gaps, among others, are left unaddressed the country’s fight against child labor will not have the effective legal tool that it needs to be successful.  A process thus needs to be undertaken to determine further areas in RA 9231 and its enforcement that needs to be improved and to ensure that national laws are compliant with the provisions of international instruments on child labor.

The Gap Analysis approach was used to determine the extent to which national laws and regulations and other measures complement the requirements of ILO Convention No. 182 and 138.  The gap analysis was used to identify how the provisions of the conventions are reflected in the existing laws and regulations, and practices in the country; and to identify which provisions of the Conventions would require changes or adjustments in the existing laws and practices in the country.

Results of the study indicate that the national laws particularly Republic Act No. 9231, “An Act Providing for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Affording Stronger Protection for the Working Children” and the Republic Act No. 10533, “The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013”, are both consistent with the provisions of Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Convention 138 on Minimum Age.  It may be noted, however, that while national policies are aligned with the provisions of international standards of minimum employable age and compulsory completion of schooling age, various implementation gaps and challenges have been observed.  A set  of policy recommendations has been outlined to  address the identified   gaps particularly on issues surrounding the linkage between child labor and education.

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Title: Gap Analysis of Implementation and Enforcement of RA 9231 and RA 10533 vis-à-vis Conventions 182 and 138: Addressing the Gap between the Age of Compulsory Schooling and Minimum Age of Work 
: Brenalyn A. Peji