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Other jobs for Guimaras folk

December 5, 2006

By Jonathan Mayuga
Correspondent
BusinessMirror, Dec. 4, 2006

NUEVA VALENCIA, Guimaras—After the biggest oil spill in the country hit and devastated this small fishing town, fisherfolk are forced to try alternative sources of livelihood, which experts say is the only way to survive the crisis which will continue to cause adverse effects on environment, health and the people’s livelihood.

Rolly Ilihan, 39, said fishermen started to plant vegetables after the oil spill triggered by the sinking of the MT Solar 1 more than three months ago near the island province.

“We are open to farming or raising hogs or poultry. We have no choice,” said Ilihan, a resident of Barangay Lucmayan, sitio Dungcaan.

In fact, he said, he and his neighbors will make their first harvest soon. Local government officials provided free seedlings as part of its livelihood program to cushion the impact of the spill on the thousands of fishermen displaced by the oil spill.

Ilihan said he will also try other means of livelihood, such as hog raising or poultry.

It is estimated that 75 percent of the people in the island province depend on fishing and shell gathering.

For the first time since he started to go fishing again last month, Ilihan said he was able to catch 10 kilos on Friday, which he sold at P60 per kilo. However, he said even catching 10 kilos a day would not be enough for his family, even on a daily basis. For one, maintaining a motorized banca entails a huge cost on his part.

According to him, before the spill, he could bring home 30 to 40 kilos of fish.

Like Ilihan, residents of sitio Dungcaan said they are willing to try farming or aquaculture for a change, but admitted they need to start from scratch. They said they need to learn from experts and a starting capital.

Short of saying there’s a need to impose a moratorium on fishing, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) president Lory Tan said fisherfolk in Guimaras stressed the need to redirect livelihood in Guimaras.

“There’s a need to redirect the livelihood of the people. Traditional fishing is no longer profitable in Guimaras,” Tan said.

Tan participated in the two-day conference at the Grand Hotel in Iloilo City on November 27 and 28 and attended by 110 scientists who had researched the impact of the oil spill in Guimaras.

A total of 43 scientific papers were presented to provide a venue for integration of the scientific assessments completed on the status of the Guimaras ecosystem, productivity and biodiversity.

The conference, which is hoped to contribute to the country’s knowledge on oil spills and the development of response protocols and enhanced capacities in dealing with future incidents at local, regional and national levels, also aims to provide scientific bases for the effective medium- to long-term rehabilitation and improvement of coastal and marine habitats and organisms in Guimaras.

The 180 participants from the local government units, private sector, academe and scientific community in Western Visayas will soon recommend rehabilitation measures for the restoration of livelihoods and welfare of human communities in Guimaras.

Their recommendation is to provide a basis for a subsequent donors’ forum to fund required rehabilitation and monitoring activities in the province.

According to Tan, the fish biomass in Guimaras is small compared to that of other fishing areas in Western Visayas, explaining why people are poor, as they earn below average income level.

Research revealed that the biomass in Guimaras is 10 tons of fish per kilometer, while in other areas, it’s 10 times or 100 tons of fish per kilometer, Tan said.

“They can try aquaculture or seaweeds farming,” he said.

Experts shared his view, and expressed fear that the adverse effect on fishing and shell gathering—the common livelihood among men and women in Guimaras—will continue to be felt longer, as the oil spill had severely damaged mangrove areas and seagrasses that are important to the survival of fish and other marine life.

Nestor Yunque, a marine biologist and head of the University of the Philippines-Visayas Marine Reserve in Sitio Taklong, said the people’s misconception that the fish being caught in the province is contaminated have added to the woes of the fisherfolk.

“Even if we know the fish are safe, there’s no way we can make people buy fish thinking they are unsafe,” he said.

He supports Tan’s suggestion for the people to look for other means of livelihood such as growing vegetables or shifting from fishery to livestock like poultry or swine raising, which would eventually increase the demand for other agricultural products such as corn for feeds.

Governor JC Rahman Nava earlier started distributing vegetable seedlings to encourage farming.

The provincial government of Guimaras is conducting an information campaign to encourage farmers to look for other sources of income, while facilitating the filing of damage claims from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund or IOPC.

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