Fiberglass boats for Haiyan-hit fishermen
Fishermen from areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda get back on track with new boats -- with one major difference.

MANILA, Philippines  – Fishermen from areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda lost most of their boats, affecting their livelihood.

Months after, they get back on track with new boats — with one major difference.
Pia Ranada reports.

These fishing boats are about to be shipped to Haiyan hit areas.

They look like any other banca but instead of wood, they’re made of fiberglass.

Fishermen were among the worst-hit by the typhoon with many of them living near the sea. The journey of these boats start here in the warehouse of BP Technologies.

These are mats of fiberglass. They are cut into strips the length of boats.

NICK NAZ, BP TECHNOLOGIES GENERAL MANAGER: What we do now is to really mass produce, try to make the boats as fast as possible. We make the molds here in Manila and prefab all the materials here then we send it to our different locations. Currently we have Bacolod. This week we’re deploying to El Nido and Ormoc. And we’re also having in Tacloban. Next stop is actually Samar.

To make a boat, a gel coat is sprayed on the mold, serving as the boat’s outer most layer. On top of the gel coat, workers put layer upon layer of fiberglass mats, laminating them with resin.

JOHANN MANGUSSAD, BP TECHNOLOGIES OPERATIONS MANAGER: It’s really fast. We can make one boat per mold per day. Instead of making it the traditional way of wooden boats that needs a week before you can make a boat, just one boat and plenty of guys to do it. Here you just need 10 guys. In a week you can make 7 to 10 boats in a week if you have just one mold for example.

Fiberglass boats also saves hardwood trees from being cut to replace thousands of boats Yolanda destroyed.

The workers, many of them fishermen, vouch for the fiberglass boats. Randy Obsanga was once a fisherman in Mindoro.

RANDY OBSANGA, BP TECHNOLOGIES WORKER: Yung kahoy madali masira. Once na masira siya, mabutas, mas mahirap i-repair hindi katulad sa fiberglass, mabutas man siya. Madali siyang i-repair. I-grigrind lang po nang onti tas pag naalis yung gel coat o yung pintura, tsaka ila-layer po nang panibago. (Wooden boats are easily damaged. Once they’re damaged, they get a hole, they’re hard to repair unlike fiberglass ones, even if they get damaged, they’re easy to repair. You just have to grind a bit then when the gel coat or paint comes off, you just have to put a new layer.)

Aside from ready made boats the company ships building kits to make new boats. So far the group has shipped 1,400 boats but that hardly dents the demand for the fishing vessels.

NICK NAZ, BP TECHNOLOGIES GENERAL MANAGER: The number of boats is like about 10,000 boats in Iloilo, 20,000 boats inTacloban and the Samar area. So if we’re only making about 1,400 there is so much to do pa.

After the layers are applied, they are dried in the sun. Rex Guadalupe, a fisherman-turned-boatmaker from Bacolod loosens up the dried layers.

REX GUADALUPE, BP TECHNOLOGIES WORKER: Bilang mangingisda, dito ka kumukuha ng sa araw-araw mongginagamit sa pamilya mo dito ka kumukuha at mahalaga ito sa iyo kasi itonghanapbuhay mo.Parang tao din to eh. Parang sarili mo na tong gamit eh, parang mahalaga ba sa iyo. (As a fisherman, this is where I get the daily needs of my family. It’s important to you because this is your livelihood. This is like a person. This is like your own boat, it’s important to you.)

The fiberglass boats show how technology can touch the lives of fishermen.

NICK NAZ, BP TECHNOLOGIES GENERAL MANAGER: It’s actually non-tradition, it deviates from the wooden boats. With Yolanda happening, on our point of view, the PH has an opportunity talaga to upgrade, to have a better fishing fleet for the fishermen.

In a day, a new fiberglass boat rolls out of the factory. Soon it will be a fisherman’s second chance at a future.

Pia Ranada, Rappler, Manila. –

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