There are more than 1.5 million street and working children all over the country, with 60,000 of them exploited or prostituted.
More than 54 percent of some 325,000 street children are likewise into prohibited drugs, according to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
These, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) said, are just some of the effects of poverty and population density, which has become the main problems of local government units nationwide, particularly cities.
Mayor Jesse Robredo of Nagay City, LCP president, said that cities, "being magnets of migration,'' are also facing problems of urbanization.
Population growth in their respective localities have brought about problems in housing, environmental sanitation, and inadequate basic services, Robredo said, citing a paper by the UNICEF which states that half of the nation's population is now in the cities.
The report, he said, also states that migration has boosted the country's urban poor population, estimated to be more than 20 per cent of the total. The study, acording to Robredo, also revealed that high urban populaton growth has had serious consequences on the nation's economic and social status.
One paper during the Phlippine Cities Conference on Urbanization at Traders Hotel in Pasay City noted that urbanization has a very harsh effect, particularly among urban poor children.
The paper, "The urban basic services strategy, responding to the realities and needs of the urban poor,'' said that "because of urban poverty, the number of elementary and high school dropouts and out-of-school youth among the urban poor continue to increase.''
The trend, the paper said, is from roughly 34 per cent in 1980 to 44 per cent in 1990. It noted Cebu City where completion rate in public elementary schools has dropped from 81.5 per cent to 70.7 per cent in 1990, while completion rate for public secondary schools is 45.3 per cent. It noted that "a growing number of elementary and high school dropouts are taking to the streets to `guard' and wash cars, sell newspapers, rags, chewing gums and flowers, among other things.''
"Many have been trapped into prostitution and drug abuse. ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism) has estimated that there are about 60,000 sexually exploited or prostituted children nationwide,'' the paper stated. It added that under such circumstances, these children have become highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
A DDB study in 1993 showed that 54.2 per cent of street children are into substance abuse. By the end of 1993, estimates reportedly placed the number of street and urban working children at 1.5 million nationwide while street children are estimated about 250,000 in 65 major cities, with 75,000 in Metro Manila.
The study, according to the LCP, showed that _ 1). that urbanization in the Philippines is accelerating very fast; 2). that despite efforts at urban poverty alleviation, the urban poor populaton is still increasing; and 3). that as a tangible manifestation of growing urban poverty, the number of urban children and youth in especially difficult circumstances has been increasing and is likely to increase.
The study said the implications are clear _ these urban predicaments need to be addressed for the Philippines to fulfill its vision for the year 2000 and its commitment to the decade goals for children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"This task does not belong to the national government alone. In fact, the real action will take place at sub-national levels _ at provincial, city, and municipal levels,'' the report stated.
(Elena L. Aben)
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