GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 August) — Four months after receiving a P2.04-million livelihood grant from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), a group of displaced fishermen and workers here is now ready to embark on their own fishing enterprise.
Members of the 148-strong United Workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies Union (UWCMGCU) completed over the weekend the construction of three mother boats and several ‘pakura’ or small boats that will be used for its planned tuna hand line fishing venture.
The union, which is a beneficiary of the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (DILEEP), is composed of retrenched workers of tuna producer Citra Mina and former crew members of fishing boats that it commissioned for fishing operations.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and top DOLE officials led on Monday the inauguration of the project and the blessing of the newly-completed fishing boats at the Passionate Retreat Center in Labo Beach, Barangay Bawing here.
“We have come full circle towards ensuring your future. Last March 10, I joined you when I awarded the P2.04-million grant for your project. Today, we see each other again to see your hand line fishing project moving forward,” Baldoz told members of the group.
She recalled that her first meeting with the displaced fishermen was clouded by tension and conflict but the second meeting was very much different.
“We meet today in a more hopeful and celebratory mood because this livelihood project is the reward for your trials, a victory over past tests brought by your sad experience with the Citra Mina Group of Companies,” she said.
Baldoz was referring to the retrenchment of UWCMGCU members from Citra Mina two years ago after their union was organized.
The company figured in another controversy after 43 crew members of a fishing operation that it financed was apprehended and jailed in Indonesia in August last year due to illegal fishing.
The fishermen, who accused the company of abandonment, were repatriated last February through the efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs, DOLE and the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)-Sentro.
The case is currently undergoing mediation under the single-entry approach handled by DOLE Region 12.
Romulo Dumalag, Jr., union chair, expressed gratefulness to DOLE for intervening in their situation and providing the livelihood assistance through the DILEEP.
He said they will make sure that the project will become sustainable and benefit other workers as well.
As tribute to DOLE officials, the fishermen named its three mother boats F/B Queen Rosalinda, F/B Queen Rebecca, and F/B Queen Ofelia.
The boats were after the Labor Secretary, Labor Undersecretary Rebecca Chato and DOLE Region 12 director Ofelia Domingo.
Joshua Mata, APL-Sentro secretary general, said they will assist the beneficiaries to ensure that their planned venture will become successful.
DOLE earlier tapped APL-Soccsksargen as accredited co-partner for the implementation of the tuna handline fishing project.
Hand line fishing uses the traditional hook and line method and is considered one of the best means to catch large tuna and other big fishes.
The method is considered as ecology-friendly as hand line fishers catch only mature fish, thus protecting the marine resource environment.
Citing the scheme adopted by the beneficiaries, Mata said the three mother boats will carry or tow the ‘pakura’ or small boats that will serve as auxiliary boats in catching tuna.
The fishermen’s catches will be delivered to tuna canneries based in the city, processors and exporters as well the local markets, he said.
“The fishing boats will not just be for livelihood. The concept was for these boats to also serve as training boats so that many more fishermen will benefit from the project,” he said.
The beneficiaries project to earn gross sales of P1 million for every fishing trip of one to two months that will be shared under a socialized system.
The fishermen’s share in the project’s income will automatically reflect deductions for the Social Security System, Philippine health Insurance Corporation and Pag-Ibig premium payments.
Baldoz assured the fishermen that the agency will continue to support the project through technical assistance on business management, productivity and innovation, and occupational safety and health.
She said they will monitor and coordinate with their convergence partners for additional assistance to the beneficiaries.
DOLE’s convergence partners are the Department of Trade and Industry for marketing and packaging; Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Science and Technology and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for skills training, certification and assessment; and, local government units through the Department of Interior and Local Government for local concerns.
Baldoz said the memorandum of agreement that it had signed with their partner-agencies on technology-based and resource-based sustainable livelihood will help make the project easier to manage for the beneficiaries.
She urged the fishermen to continually work and cooperate with DOLE Region 12.
“I want you to be a model in sustainable livelihood development in the fishing industry here,” she added. (MindaNews)