BATO, CATANDUANES – Jobert Tuazon, 38, of Brgy. Buhi, San Miguel, this province, worked as an abaca stripper and tricycle driver prior to his employment at the Pinoy Lingap-Damayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PLDC). As abaca stripper, he used to make more or less P2,500 to P3,000 per harvest while he earned at least P500 daily as a tricycle driver.

His previous jobs served as Tuazon’s training ground in his current tasks as PLDC’s driver, purchasing officer and classifier. After working as a contractual employee at PLDC for three months, he is now a regular staff at the cooperative with P12,000 monthly salary complete with health and insurance benefits.

According to Tuazon, he is more satisfied with his present job. “Ang advantage dito, umulan man o umaraw, (may trabaho ako) hindi tulad noon na kapag tag-ulan wala na kasi hihintayin mong matuyo yung fiber bago ka kikita. Ang mga negosyante hindi ka naman pauutangin kapag walang abaca. (Working with PLDC is more advantageous because rain or shine, I have work to do unlike before that during rainy season, I don’t have income for I have to wait for the fiber to dry. Without abaca, businessmen won’t lend us money),” Tuazon said. Multi-tasking was even made easier for him now that the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) in Bicol has already delivered the vehicles for the timely collection, transporting and marketing of abaca fiber.

On July 10, 2018 a team from PRDP-Bicol’s I-SUPPORT component turned over one 10-wheeler truck worth P3.5 million and one six-wheeler truck amounting to P1.7 million to PLDC represented by its General Manager, Antonio Jimenez Jr. at the Provincial Capitol in Virac. Governor Joseph Cua graced the activity to show the local government’s support to the P16.16 million-worth Abaca Fiber Processing and Trading Enterprise, the first enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject in the island province.

The Project which is now on its 46.57 percent of implementation also delivered a forklift for the physical management of the abaca fiber in the warehouse, eight units of weighing scale with 500 kilogram capacity and six units of blower or industrial fan.

“Malaking tulong sa cooperative kasi instead na bibili kami ng sarili naming pera, malaking tipid yun. Kung kami mismo yung maggi-generate ng fund para ipambili nyan medyo malaki sa part ng coop yung tulong na yun. So magagawa namin yung ginagawa naming ngayon na mas konti yung capitalization na kailangan namin dahil doon sa equipment na bigay ng PRDP (It’s a big help to the cooperative because we can save the money required in buying these equipment. It will be challenging on the part of the cooperative to generate this amount of fund. Now, we can proceed with our business with less capitalization using these equipment from PRDP),” Jimenez said.

To deliver its products outside Catanduanes, PLDC rents a wing van twice every month for P13 to P14,000. The wing van’s capacity is limited to only eight tons or equivalent to 80 bales while the 10-wheeler truck from PRDP can accommodate up to 13,000 tons. The cooperative has regular buyers in Las Piñas, Manila and Daraga, Albay. Meanwhile, the newly-delivered forklift and weighing scales will replace the cooperative’s existing second hand and already defective equipment.

In addition, PLDC’s truck drivers like Tuazon won’t have to worry about going home late at night because of going back and forth from the remote areas in North Catanduanes to buy and collect abaca fibers. He added that the truck from PRDP can also help save the large amount that he used to spend in crude oil because of the previous setup.

Currently, PRDP is working on the construction of the I-REAP project’s P5.95 million-worth main and satellite warehouse buildings in Bato and Viga.

The Abaca Fiber Processing and Trading Enterprise in Virac, Catanduanes is an I-REAP subproject engaged in abaca fiber processing and trading as well as trading of bacbac or dried leafsheaths of abaca plant and abaca wastes. The enterprise subproject is being managed by the PLDC with funding and technical assistance from the PRDP and the Provincial Government of Catanduanes. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)