Navotas fishermen deliver aid to ‘Yolanda’ survivors
MANILA, Philippines—For the first time since he became a fishing boat skipper, 48-year-old Lorenzo Umali went out to sea not to catch but to release.
That is, release tons of aid for the victims of “supertyphoon Yolanda” (international name Haiyan).
Umali’s vessel, the Verbena 888, left the Navotas City fishport Monday night to help deliver urgently needed relief goods to the storm-battered Visayas region, adding to the growing list of privately owned transports lent by their owners to join the humanitarian effort.
“In all my 28 years in the fishing industry, and in my 15 years of being a captain of fishing vessels, this is the first time that I will be at the helm of a relief mission,” said Umali, whose cargo on a regular voyage would mostly be galunggong, alumahan, tamban and other seafood.
The ship, which usually ventures out toward Palawan province, is expected to arrive at the port of Sogod on the southern tip of Leyte on Wednesday, with about 300 tons of relief goods.
The owner, Frabelle Foods Corp., lent the ship to the relief drive of Kaya Natin Movement (KNM), an advocacy group for good governance. “We are using this ship at no cost,” said Marissa Lerias, the KNM pointperson for the Verbena aid mission. “This is the ship owners’ way of helping us.’’
Lerias said the ship would carry food items, water, blankets and clothes from relief drives initiated by nongovernment organizations and private groups, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
From Sogod, the relief mission would move northward to the hard-hit municipalities of Javier, MacArthur, Mayorga, Dulag, Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo and finally to Tacloban City.
“This is a mission largely powered by volunteers. From the donations to the repacking, and even up to loading of the relief goods on the ship, they are involved,” Lerias said. Also helping load the cargo were members of the police, the military and employees of the Navotas and Malabon city governments.
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer interview shortly before leaving port, Umali said he and his crew would be sacrificing a few days’ wages just to be in the mission, but noted that they were just happy to help, thankful that they were spared by Yolanda’s wrath. “We’re quite happy because this is our chance to help the victims in our own way. This is our own small contribution.”
After Umali’s men were told that the Verbena would be used for relief delivery, “we haven’t had any sleep,’’ he said. “Since this ship is used for fishing, I’ve asked my men to clean the hold so that the relief goods won’t smell of fish.”
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