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Coin banks to send displaced Girl Scouts to school

December 25, 2006

Ma. Diosa Labiste
Inquirer, Dec. 24, 2006

ILOILO CITY— A thousand bamboo coin banks will bring holiday cheer to 98 Girl Scouts and their families affected by the oil spill in Guimaras.

Since October, bamboo coin banks, measuring some 15 inches each in length, have been distributed to 1,800 Girl Scout troops in Iloilo province and city. They are being filled up with coins that, if put all together, will help the Guimaras Girl Scouts stay in school.

Zenaida Mabugat, associate member of the Iloilo Girl Scout Council and former regional social welfare director, said that the fund drive came when they learned that many girl students had stopped or could hardly go to school because their parents had lost their main source of livelihood—fishing.

The oil spill, caused by the Aug. 11 sinking of oil tanker MT Solar I polluted the seas off southern Guimaras. The tanker was carrying carrying 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel oil for Petron Corp. As a result, fish catch dwindled considerably; women and children stayed away from contaminated shellfish.

Without fishing, affected families depended on food given by relief organizations, government and charitable groups as well as the income derived from joining the clean up of oil-smeared beaches. The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund had started issuing checks to compensate the displaced workers of Guimaras fishing industry.

A study commissioned by the province of Guimaras in October noted a 10-percent decline in school attendance in villages affected by the oil spill.

Mabugat, who is also a consultant in the office of Rafael Coscolluela, the presidential assistant for regional development, said parents had difficulty providing school allowances for their children.

Others parents have continued to give out allowance but they do not know for how long, according to Mabugat.

A week into the oil spill, children in the elementary grades stayed away from school, complaining of dizziness, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, chest pain, nasal congestion, fever and cough, apparently the effect of toxic fumes, the study said.

Classes were moved to day care centers, churches, chapels or community halls because some elementary schools were near the oil-smothered beaches.

Cynthia Lumampao of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and Helen Villarico-Correa of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), who joined the study, said that they saw a continuing drop in school attendance in the next months and a decrease in enrollment for the next school year. Lumampao said young girls might stop schooling.

“In the coming months, as the fishing industry is not fully back on its feet, we thought it is best to help the Girl Scouts and their families by giving them a little amount for school allowance and teaching them livelihood projects,” Mabugat said.

Endelynn Ortega, the Girl Scout council executive for Iloilo and Guimaras, said the money from the coin banks would be given to Girl Scouts in the island villages of Nauway and Unisan, and Tando located in the mainland.

The coin banks are made from bamboo nodules in Maasin town, Iloilo, in September. Distribution to Girl Scouts, Star Scouts and Twinklers troops began over the weekend in time for Christmas.

Ruth Jarantilla, who heads the Iloilo and Guimaras council, led the appeal for Iloilo Girl Scouts to help their sisters in Guimaras.

Mabugat said aside from giving the Guimaras scouts allowances, the council planned to bring trainers to teach families how to make brooms from coconut midribs and produce herbed vinegars.

She said coconuts abound in the three villages in Guimaras and they could be sources of products to be sold in Iloilo.

Ortega said the scout council’s help was a show of support to Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava, who paid for the P35 registration fee of 12,000 Guimaras Girl Scouts at the start of the school year in June.

There are a total of 46,000 Girl Scouts in Iloilo and Guimaras provinces, with the Star Scouts

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