Displaced fishers sail anew

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


WHEN super typhoon Yolanda ravaged Central Visayas last year, it destroyed what kept the Noval and Pagal families in San Remigio in northern Cebu afloat: the bancas they used to fish for a living.

Days after the storm hit their town, fishermen Marciano Noval, 53, and Eliezar Pagal, 57, had to look for other jobs to feed their family.

Noval sold scrap materials while Pagal worked in construction.

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“We lost almost everything. We never thought we would survive that devastation,” Noval said when asked about the storm’s toll on the town. “But with God’s grace we are here.

We are moving forward.”

Noval has been fishing for 13 years. Although his wife helps by selling goods, he said his income in fishing has been the family’s source of money in raising their four children and six grandchildren.

Livelihood

Fishing is the major source of livelihood for many households in San Remigio, a third-class municipality in the province of Cebu. According to a report by the Philippine Information Agency, about 5,000 families in San Remigio were affected by Yolanda.

With his banca destroyed, Pagal decided to work in construction. The rebuilding efforts undertaken by the private sector and government agencies offered jobs to displaced fishermen and farmers in the town.

Pagal said, however, the construction work is only temporary because when things will start to normalize and the rehabilitation programs will end, there won’t be as many construction jobs.

He said he would love to return to fishing because that’s his life. Pagal, a father of seven, has been fishing for 20 years.

The two got their wish and will be back fishing with the turnover last Friday by San Miguel Brewery Inc. (SMBI) of 14 motorized bancas for San Remigio fishermen. The two are among the beneficiaries.

SMBI turned over an initial batch of five bancas last February from proceeds of their Musiklaban competition, bringing the total to 19 bancas.

The company sought the help of furniture exporters and couple Clayton and Joji Tugonon in identifying the beneficiaries and in designing and manufacturing the bancas.

The couple has already helped turn over more than 100 bancas to various beneficiaries.

“When the employees learned of this good cause, they were eager to put in more. The 14 bancas turned over today were from the donations of our employees,” said Romelinda Garces, SMBI communication officer.

Not dole-outs

Each banca costs P22,500 and bears the name of a beer product of the company.

Clayton said the bancas weren’t dole-outs. Each beneficiary contributed to the completion by providing the rigger and paddle. The couple also encouraged the donors to visit their factory to check how the bancas were built and which materials were used.

As part of the agreement, the 14 fishermen took an oath before the SMBI employees led by SMBI Mandaue plant manager Ricardo Tablante to become “stewards of the environment.”

They pledged to become volunteers of Bantay Dagat, a civilian volunteer fisheries patrol force that protect the marine environment by guarding against illegal fishing, and to help in rescue operations. The fishermen also pledged to protect coral reefs.

The agreement also emphasized that the fishermen should take care of their bancas and use it only for fishing. If they will no longer use it they should return it. Those caught selling or pawning the banca will be charged with estafa or theft, the company said.

“We designed it this way so these fishermen would really take care of what we have given them and use it the right way,” said Joji.

Garces said a team from SMBI will closely monitor the project and will visit the households of the beneficiaries.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2014.

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