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Feeding fishers for life through boat distribution program

/ 04:18 AM September 24, 2016
SOME of the boats distributed by the Department of Agriculture to Badjao fishermen in Zamboanga City. The DA aims to distribute at least 20,000 boats to fishermen nationwide this year. Its target is to distribute 200,000 more boats next year. JULIE S. ALIPALA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

SOME of the boats distributed by the Department of Agriculture to Badjao fishermen in Zamboanga City. The DA aims to distribute at least 20,000 boats to fishermen nationwide this year. Its target is to distribute 200,000 more boats next year. JULIE S. ALIPALA/INQUIRER MINDANAO

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Sixty-year-old Badjao fisherman Munib Araa always dreamed of a boat he can call his own but he was too poor to buy one.

His story and those of other Badjao fishermen have brought to life the saying that giving a man fish could feed him for a day but teaching, or helping, them fish could feed them for a lifetime.

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Araa could not afford a typical boat, made of marine plywood and pieces of wood, that costs between P5,000-P15,000.

On Monday, Araa tried to fight back tears of joy as he received a fiber glass boat from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

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“This has been my dream, to have my own fishing banca,” he said as he received a certificate of ownership for the fishing boat painted in blue.

Araa is among 50 fishermen who received boats from the DA and BFAR in a bid to allow the Badjao fishermen to venture into deeper seas.

“It is here now. I am bringing home my (source of) livelihood. I can start earning more for my family,” he said.

Aside from the fiber glass boats worth P16,300 each, which were distributed under a program called Targeted Action to Reduce Poverty and Generate Economic Transformation, fishing gear, like nets and floaters, were also distributed to the fishermen.

“It’s my first time to receive a real fishing boat. I have been a fisherman all my life and there were so many promises in the past, but all we got then was a certificate and some gaffs and nets,” Araa said.

Gibson Lagayan, a 39-year-old fisherman, said he had been attending seminars and workshops in the past but promises by officials to give out boats never materialized.

“Only this time. There are now real boats for us,” Lagayan said.

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Lagayan said in the past, small fishermen like him felt neglected by the government.

“We were always treated as someone who cannot be provided with projects. We were not a priority,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who handed out certificates of boat ownership to the fishermen, said the boats distributed on Monday were the initial batch.

“There will be more and I want to make sure that each fisherman, the real ones, gets the boat,” said Piñol.

“I want the names of the fisherman printed on the boats and there will be no symbolic turnover, only real turnover,” he said.

He said it was fulfilling to see the reaction from beneficiaries.

“It’s great to see the faces of fishermen beaming with happiness,” Piñol said.

Araa said fiberglass boats are easy to maintain and are durable.

Lagayan said the boats looked very expensive and beautiful.

“They have no outriggers yet but they look sturdy,” he said.

Piñol said the boats are “Filipino-made.” Fishermen from Tacloban City, which was hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), had initially made the boats. The technology used by fishermen in Tacloban has spread to General Santos City, Davao City and Zambales, where similar boats are being made, too.

Piñol said the DA and BFAR seek to release 20,000 fishing boats to fishermen nationwide by end of the year and 200,000 more next year. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

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