BARCELONA — Children in this seaside town brave sun and rain to gather day-old crabs to eke out a living.
At low tide, they gather crablets that sell for 75 centavos to P3 a piece to local buyers in Sorsogon for delivery to Pampanga and other regions where they are processed and sold as a gourmet food.
Imelda Romanillos, Labor provincial officer, said state policy prohibited child labor.
“No person below 15 of age is allowed to work,” she told Manila Standard. “If these minors collect crablets in the seaside only, there is no serious problem. The possible negative effect on children is loss of interest to go to school because they are earning.”
In case the children failed to attend their classes, will the parents face criminal charges?
“We will go to the place, not to reprimand, but assess the situation to base the safety nets on and offer help,” Romanilos said.
Chief Insp. Roque Merdegia, also a lawyer, agreed with the labor office.
“There is no violation of the labor law except when parents use coercion and expose the lives of children to danger,” he said.
Darzy Gacosta, a resident, commended the self-supporting kids doing a decent job.
“They would rather (work) than steal for food,” she said, noting that a crablet gatherer averaged about 30 pieces in summer and as many as a hundred during the cold months.
Aldrin, 11, said the fruits of his labor went to good use.
“I can provide my own allowance in school and save part of my earnings for a new pair of pants and T-shirt,” he said. “We are able to help our parents serve enough rice on the table.”
Elementary schools Principal Liza Salonga said work could distort priorities for the young.
“It can cause dropping out because if they get used to earning money they will become lazy to attend classes,” she said, adding that a suitable arrangement is needed. “It’s good if they do it only during weekend because they can help their parents.” – Oliver Samson