GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 March) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has released a P2-million livelihood grant to 43 fishermen from this city who were repatriated by the Indonesian government last month after spending nearly six months in jail due to illegal fishing.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz personally turned over on Tuesday a check worth P2,040,000 for the implementation of a tuna handline fishing project involving the repatriated fishermen.
She said the grant, which is under the agency’s emergency livelihood program, will mainly fund the acquisition of three primary or mother handline fishing boats with four small pump boats each or “pakura.”
Part of the funds will finance the initial operations of the three tuna fishing boats that will be manned by the 43 fishermen, she said.
Baldoz released the financial assistance during a consultation-dialogue here with the repatriated fishermen called by the agency.
Ofelia Domingo, DOLE Region 12 director, said the project will be jointly implemented by the agency and its accredited co-partner Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)-Soccsksargen.
“This will provide stable livelihood to our repatriated fishermen and the opportunity earn better income,” she said.
She said APL will facilitate the fabrication of the fishing boats and assist their deployment or operations.
Herbert Demos, APL regional coordinator, lauded the DOLE for giving attention to the plight of the 43 fishermen.
“We thank the DOLE for helping the repatriated fishermen who were almost left with nothing following their ordeal in Indonesia,” he said.
Aside from their suffering while in detention, he said the fishermen and their families were buried in debt due to the loss of their livelihood.
The 43 fishermen returned home last Feb. 24, almost six months after they were arrested and detained in Ternate, Indonesia for fishing and immigration violations.
The fishermen were crew members of fishing boat F/B Love Merben II that was apprehended for illegal fishing on Aug. 26 last year off the coast of eastern Indonesia.
Indonesian authorities eventually detained the arrested fishermen, who also lacked travel documents, in Ternate City in North Maluku province.
The Maritime Industry Authority listed the boat’s operator as Felisa Abe of Barangay Tambler here but the fishing expedition was financed by local tuna firm Citra Mina Group of Companies.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, through its consulate in Manado, Indonesia, mainly facilitated the release and repatriation of the fishermen.
It was assisted by the Passionist Center for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation here, labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and the Geneva-based International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.