Philippines: child loggers expect no Christmas break

Children as young as nine hauling logs

Children as young as nine hauling logs

There will be no Christmas break for the children, some as young as nine, who haul logs for a paltry living in the hinterland of the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Logging – legal or illegal – thrives near Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental, some towns in Misamis province and the four provinces of Caraga region.

Children are used by wood traders because they are cheaper than carabaos (water buffaloes). Five children aged nine to 14 from the Higaonon tribe told ucanews.com how they skip classes to join other minors who haul logs – some up to four times their own weight - for a living.

It is backbreaking work. “We are already used to body pains, sir. Someone among us died due to illness,” one child told ucanews.com.

The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Gingoog City in their 30 January 2010 report and the subsequent consolidated report on 4 February  2010 confirmed that loggers employ Higaonon children in the villages of Eureka and Kalipay.

The NCIP-Caraga office has no official reports of tribal children hauling logs, although they have been seen doing the work in Agusan provinces.

Higaonon tribal youth leader Emmanuel Ansihagan said the practice continues despite an investigation by government agencies.

Higaonon residents Ernalyn Tinaghanaw and Bernelia Kamahay of Impaluhod said parents allow their kids to work because there is no other way to make a living.

“Their parents, some of them already sick, are the ones pushing their children to work and skip classes in the hope of earning extra money to buy food for the family,” Tinaghanaw said.

Gingoog City Social Welfare Officer Napoleon Austria Jr admitted the existence of the Higaonon “carabao kids,” saying he had been asking for a multi-agency investigation of the case.

Source: UCAN