Effort to help Filipino fishermen is under way

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A project is under way to help residents of the Philippines who lost fishing boats get their livelihood back.

On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan claimed not only the lives of thousands and millions in properties in the Philippines, but the livelihood of the survivors as well when 5,000 fishing boats were destroyed. One of the worst affected areas is Bantayan Island, where fishing has a huge impact on the local economy and to the Philippines overall.

Although some of the early days were focused on helping residents meet basic needs — a struggle that still continues — a coalition of groups is trying to help residents regain the main source of their livelihood through the Bantayan Back to Sea Project.

Bantayan is west of the northern end of Cebu and is considered to be Cebu’s fishing ground. Boatloads of fish are transported daily to Cebu City and Negros for consumption and further distribution to as far as Mindanao and Manila.

A group of Bantayan residents from Bantayan Island Nature Park and Resort initiated the Back To Sea Project to empower the fishermen in Bantayan to rebuild their lost livelihood through “bayanihan,” or “helping each other.”

The Back to Sea Project aims to reconnect Bantayan fishermen with their livelihood.

Once a barangay is set up, meaning there is already an agreement between elected officials and officers of the fishermen group, the Back to Sea Project will fund them according to a budget based on the list of affected fishermen.

The first step will be to set up a boat repair and building station, complete with tools and hired boatbuilders.

The more skilled the boatbuilding and repair labor that volunteers, the more stations that can be set up. As the local Filipino community has extended its call for help, marine industry veteran Barbara Jean Walsh found herself thinking: “Maybe the U.S. marine industry could do something? Maybe, but only if they knew about it.”

The production of the boats will depend on the capacity of the station.

The pilot station is expected to produce five boats every five days. The Back to Sea Project is not into the commercial production of boats, so it declined requests to make boats for certain people.

If donors have beneficiaries in mind, they have to be members of a fishermen’s association because the foundation of the project is “sustainability” and “bayanihan.”