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CEBU, Philippines – So devastating was the havoc wreaked by Typhoon Odette on Olango Island in December 2021, that it crippled the fishing industry there, wiping out most fishing facilities including the all-important pump boats of the fishermen.
The likes 24-year-old of Eric Barame, a father of three, were forced to take odd jobs to make ends meet.
This year, Berame and his fellow fishers are confident they can finally break out of their struggle. The Olango fishers on Thursday, February 9, received 100 motorboats through a special loan program organized by Japanese financial firm Impact Circle Incorporated in collaboration with the Lapu-Lapu City government.
“Malipayon kaayo mi! Tagsa ra pud bitaw muari sa amoa nga naay muhatag ingun ani nga kamaayo nga grasya,” Berame told Rappler. (We’re so happy! It’s not often that someone comes here to give us something as great as this.)
Berame said that during the pandemic he could earn only P200 for a day’s worth of fishing. He said that he would usually share a boat with other fishers, shelling out cash for fuel and other travel expenses.
Now, with his own boat, Berame is looking forward to earning more, and gaining more time to be with his family instead of wasting hours looking for boats to borrow or hitch a ride on.
Eric Berame, a 24-year-old father of 3, is excited to tell his family that they finally have their own motorboat to use when they go out fishing.— John Sitchon (@TheJohnSitchon) February 9, 2023
After Odette hit Olanggo, Berame’s family boat was destroyed and so he took on odd jobs to sustain his family’s needs. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/U9niNTqmrP
The fish have returned
Besides getting new boats, the fishers of the island were happy that their old fishing grounds were now teeming with marine life.
Alex Baring, head of the Lapu-Lapu City Agriculture and Fishery Office (CAFO), told Rappler that fish sanctuaries in Olango have steadily recovered. “We now have million sardines, two groups of them, along the coast of Maribago and Punta Engaño…we call them million sardines because di na maihap (it can’t be counted anymore),” Baring said.
Baring added that along the Hilutungan Channel, between the islands of Mactan and Olango, sea turtles and whale sharks have also returned after these have gone missing after the devastation brought by Odette.
Previously, Baring told Rappler that Odette-related damage to Olango’s agricultural and fish industry was tallied at P38 million.
Boat loans from Japan
In the aftermath of Odette, CAFO recorded only 15% of the fishing facilities, including pump boats, left undamaged.
“Through the program of our Japanese partners, our fishermen were happy that they could really pay for the pumpboats and there’s even no downpayment nor collateral,” Baring said.
Under the loan contract, fishermen will have to pay an installment fee of P95 per day or around P2,850 per month for three years.
Each boat is 20 feet long and has a carrying capacity of two to three people. The engines that came with the boats have a horsepower of 6.5 or 212 CC.
The boat also has a two-year warranty and includes a special calamity insurance shouldered by the Lapu-Lapu City government worth P40,000 for each boat as long as the owner of the boat registers themselves at the CAFO satellite office in the Olango Mini City Hall in Barangay Talima.
Chan said that the Lapu-Lapu City government will give free boat insurance to fishermen who avail of the boat loan.— John Sitchon (@TheJohnSitchon) February 9, 2023
“Get yourself registered at the satellite office of the City Agriculture and Fisheries Office (CAFO) at the Olango mini-city hall,” the mayor said. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/2Gi9XdqT0D
Impact Circle CEO Satoshi Takahashi said during a press conference on Thursday, February 9, that by providing boat loans to fisherfolk, it would improve their credit and access to house loans, education loans, and fishing equipment loans.
“Our project mission is to create opportunities for fisherfolks who wish to get a boat and engine for a living and make people happy
Since June 2022, Impact Circle has given the Olango fisherfolk community a total of 119 boats and 147 engines.
Life is getting better
For fishermen like Pepito Cañete, president of the Sitio Sabang Seaside Fisherfolk group, life is beginning to get better.
“Karon nga kada-adlaw na ko makapanagat, musami na ako income sa mga at least P700 kada adlaw unya kung masakit ko kay naa ra koy matigom,” Cañete told Rappler.
(Now that I can go fishing every day, my income has increased to at least P700 daily and if I get sick, I’d still have savings)
Cañete added that hospital services have also improved in the island with the help of the city government.
“Kung magpacheck-up mi, wala may bayad (If we get a check-up, there’s no need to pay),” the fisherman said.
During the press conference, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said that the city government’s focus this year is to work on solutions that would improve the livelihood and healthcare system of Olango.
According to Chan, these included implementing projects like a satellite public college in the island, free livelihood training for different sectors in the community, and renovating the Angasil Port, among others.
“We also want to upgrade the hospital. We already have a sea ambulance that can cross to the mainland,” Chan said. – Rappler.com
John Sitchon is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow.