CASIGURAN, SORSOGON – “Stop illegal fishing.” This is the appeal of Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol during the ceremonial turnover of fiber glass boats to fisherfolk in Casiguran, this province on March 24, 2017. 

Together with Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR)-Bicol Director Dennis V. Del Socorro, 2nd district of Sorsogon Representative Deogracias “Ding” Ramos, and DA-Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. de los Santos, the DA Chief personally handed 200 units of 37-footer motorized fiber glass boats worth P90,000 each, complete with 400 sets of fishing gears, engine and fishing nets to 36 families, the first batch of 400 beneficiaries of the DA’s efforts to address poverty in the Philippines by developing the countryside.

 “Bakit pumupunta ng Metro Manila ang mga tao para maghanap ng magtrabaho? Sapagkat walang trabaho sa countryside. Kaya ibalik natin ang pera sa bukid. Ibalik natin sainyo--sa mga mangingisda at magsasaka para magkaroon kayo ng trabaho rito,” he said.

 Each of the 200 fiber glass boats was awarded to two families during the ceremonial turnover activity and the Secretary promised to return after one or two years to evaluate the program’s impact to the quality of lives of the beneficiaries. He added that the government will also generate employment for the fisherfolk by training them on boat building. He also committed to provide one cold storage facility and one ice plant to the province in support to the livelihood assistance given to the coastal communities. Moreover, Secretary Piñol shared his plan to procure a cargo plane to implement the Food Skyway, a program to bring fresh fish and agricultural products to prospective markets nationwide.

Salvador Bellen, 71, of Brgy. Somal-ot, Casiguran, Sorsogon, who has been fishing since 1962 and one of the fishermen-beneficiaries of the fiberglass boats, expressed his gratitude to the Department saying, “Masaya po ako dahil sa pamamagitan nito, makakapangisda na kami sa malayu-layo at makakahuli na kami ng marami-rami--nabigyan kami ng kabuhayan. Noon, nakakadalawa o tatlong kilo na huli lang kami dahil sagwanan lang na bangka ang gamit namin, kahoy lang at luma na.”

In his message, Escudero asked the beneficiaries to take good care of the fiber glass boats to prolong usability.

“Sinubukan kong pukpukin ng maso ito, hindi kaya, gustuhin nyo mang sirain hindi kayang sirain pero kailangan pa rin ng konting pag-aalaga. Pangarap namin, kada mangingisda, fiber glass boat ang gamit para hindi lamang pangmatagalan, panghabambuhay na serbisyo na ito para sa inyo,” he said.

The DA Secretary proceeded to Casiguran, Sorsogon as part of his provincial sortie dubbed as “Biyaheng Bukid” after attending a similar face-to-face dialogue with agri-fishery stakeholders and local officials in Ligao City. In both events, he highlighted DA’s current advocacies to use hybrid seeds, supply irrigation, mechanize production and harvest, and provide sufficient fertilization and credit facilitation. He also announced the launch of the DA’s National Color-Coded Agriculture and Fisheries Map which is now available online at farmersguidemap.gov.ph and his proposed Farmers and Fishermen Quick Credit Facility (FFQCF), which will facilitate the fast release of production loan worth P50,000 to registered farmers at only 6 percent interest yearly without collateral and payable within a period depending on the farmers’ capacity to recover.   

Casiguran has a total population of 37,428 composed of 6,790 households. According to Casiguran Mayor Edwin “Boboy” Hamor, 4,270 households or 89.31 percent of the municipality’s population are dependent on agriculture while 1,953 households are fishermen. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS 5)