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Guimaras fishermen to be taught seaweed farming

March 22, 2007

Jocelyn Uy
Inquirer, 2007-03-21

MANILA, Philippines – Idled by the oil spill that destroyed fish sanctuaries and mangroves last year, the fishermen of Guimaras Island will be taught seaweed farming and coco-based geotextile production.

The alternative livelihood is a project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in partnership with Petron Foundation Inc.

It was a Petron-chartered oil bunker that sank off the waters of Guimaras Island in August 2006 spilling more than a million liters of its contents into the sea.

The oil spill, the worst in the country so far, reached the white sand shores and beaches of Guimaras – where fishing is the main source of income – and ruined mangroves and seaweed plantations.

Thousands of fisherfolk in towns flanked by the contaminated waters lost their livelihood.

Now, seven months after the accident that reduced the usually “self-sufficient” towns to poverty, several of the fishermen have gone back to the waters, making do with a meager catch each day, said Ruel Lucantales, social welfare assistant secretary for Visayas and Mindanao cluster field offices.

“They catch a little and earn a little. With the new livelihood, they have something else to boost their income,” Lucantales told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net

The DSWD tapped the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to train Guimaras residents how to plant, harvest, dry and store seaweeds (for seaweed farming), as well as weave coco filaments into fabric (geotextile production).

They will also be taught basic management skills and bookkeeping.

Lucantales said seaweeds and geotextiles have export appeal.

Seaweeds produce carageenan, a main component in confections, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Geotextiles, the byproduct of copra, are used as carpets to hold soil together, preventing erosion.

“Anyone of labor age can participate in these projects,” Lucantales said. “They can be out-of-school youths, able-bodied and the elderly.”

The livelihood program will be bankrolled by a P3-million grant from the Petron Foundation.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral recently signed the memorandum of agreement with Nicasio Alcantara and Khalid Al-Faddagh, chair and president of Petron Foundation Inc., respectively.

Of the total budget, about P2 million would be distributed to 15 groups with 20 to 25 members each, pooled together by the DSWD to form community-based credit organizations under its Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran Program.

At the height of the oil spill, the DSWD allocated P2 million for cash-for-work projects and P2.5 million for relief goods. At least 3,000 families who were directly affected by the catastrophe were paid P200 a day in the cleanup of shorelines and mangroves.

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