CASTILLA, SORSOGON – Everyday, members of the Cogon Fisherfolk Organization visit their 2.5 hectare seaweed area not only to maintain their seaweeds. Since they received 10 non-motorized fiberglass boats from the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) on July 14, 2017, they took on a new role: “guardians of the ocean,” responsible in maintaining its cleanliness and in promoting environmental conservation and protection.

“Dahil po sa support ng PRDP napapanatili namin ang kalinisan ng karagatan upang mapalago din namin ang aming seaweeds kasi kailangan laging malinis ang karagatan para sa improvement ng buhay ng mga seaweed seedlings (Because of PRDP’s support, we are now able to maintain the cleanliness the ocean so we could grow our seaweeds. In order for our seaweeds to thrive, it is necessary to keep the ocean clean),” Cogon Fisherfolk Organization Chairperson Nerma Belmonte said.

 

Also, the organization now helps the local council to combat illegal fishing which might affect their seaweed production. The P1.26 million worth Cogon Seaweed Production and Marketing, one of the 10 microenterprise subprojects funded by PRDP for calamity-stricken areas in Sorsogon, will venture in the production and marketing of raw dried seaweeds. 

Castilla was among the most affected areas by typhoon Nona. Reports from the Municipal Agriculture Office show that the total damage in fisheries was valued at P1.76 million. According to Provincial Enterprise Development (I-REAP) Staff Esteven Garcia, the baranggay was fully devastated when he first came to survey the area in January 2016. The road was unpassable thus, he and his colleagues reached it by sea. The fisherfolk’s properties including their houses, boats and fishing gears were damaged and lost.

Belmonte was three months pregnant when she started participating in PRDP’s business planning activities. Now, with her one-year and two months old baby, she is very happy and grateful as she enthuses:

“Talagang ogmahon po ako, baga’ng gusto ko mag-iyak san nakita ko ang bangka na yada na (I felt ecstatic, I almost cried when I saw that the boats are finally here),” said Belmonte.

The 10 pink non-motorized fiberglass boats for her association was the last batch of the 50 non-motorized fiberglass boats procured using community participation mode of procurement for the project beneficiaries engaged in seaweed production and marketing. The non-motorized fiberglass boats will be used in the installation, planting, maintenance and harvesting of seaweeds.

Prior to PRDP intervention, seaweed farmers in Brgy, Cogon usually borrow boats from neighbors or relatives at least once a week. Like most of the baranggay settlers, Jonard Lorilla derives his income from seaweed farming aside from fishing.  However, if the boat is unavailable, he has to walk .5 kilometers to the seaweed area during low tide to manage his seaweeds plantation.

“Sang dae pa nag-aabot ang bagyong Nona, damo’ na ang gulaman namon digdi. Kaso san nag-abot ang bagyo halos kadamoan na gulaman nawara, napagal kami magpabalik sang gulaman kaya ngonian na igwa naman, may nabakal naman na bagong similya, matatabangan na kaming maray ta may sakayan na (Before typhoon Nona, we have abundant seaweed production. However, they all perished because of the typhoon damage and we had a hard time recovering them. Having these boats will make our seaweed production easier now that we have new propagules),” Lorilla said.

With the Cogon Seaweed Production and Marketing microenterprise subproject, the Cogon Fisherfolk Organization eyes producing 2,700 kilograms of RDS or 54 bags per cropping which they will sell at P35 per kilo packed at 50 kilograms per sack.

Sorsogon Governor Robert Lee Rodrigueza further encouraged the beneficiaries to practice discipline as well as maintain and protect the ocean’s cleanliness to qualify for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) National Search for Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). At stake is P10 million-worth of fisheries livelihood package to winning coastal communities that meet its four general criteria: (1) absence of illegal fishing and observance of fishing closed season, (2) establishment of protected marine sanctuary, (3) clean coastal waters without domestic and industrial wastes and, (4) effective mangrove protection and rehabilitation program. He also mentioned that the Sorsogon Environment and Natural Resources Office is a consistent awardee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Saringaya Awards for its programs and projects that positively impact the environment.   

PRDP is a six-year development project being implemented by the Department of Agriculture to establish an inclusive, market-oriented and climate-resilient agri-fishery sector. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)