Rising costs make life harder in Agusan Marsh

Erwin M. Mascariñas, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 09 2018 01:50 AM

A woman paddles a boat bringing a group of kids to school in Sitio Sitio Dinagat, Barangay San Marcos in Bunawan town. Erwin M. Mascariñas, ABS-CBN News

BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur - Some residents living along the Agusan Marsh floodplains said the rising prices on fuel and basic goods have made life harder.

"We are saddened. The increase in the prices of necessities, particularly on fuel, has greatly affected all of us especially those living along the marshland areas as we would have to travel by boat," said Marissa Peñaloga.

The 44-year-old mother of four said her family has to shell out almost P1,000 for fuel. 

A trip to the central village from their house in Sitio Dinagat, Barangay San Marcos, Bunawan needs at least 15 liters of gas for their boat. They have to spend another P50 for the motorcycle ride if they decide to go downtown.

For 54-year-old Julieta Perez, her biggest fear is her children's education. She has 13 children.

For most children along the Agusan Marsh, they have to take a boat going to school.

"Some have to paddle a boat going to school and it's especially harder during rainy days. Good for those who are living near the school. What about those who are required to take a boat?" she said.

"Would they be forced to stop and just help the family livelihood of fishing or farming in order to survive?"

Perez said the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) has at least helped them in their immediate needs.

A child paddles a boat as it approaches the river bank. Erwin M. Mascariñas, ABS-CBN News

Junjie Polangco, a non-government organization officer, said the rising prices of commodities affected everyone.

"As my work puts me in a situation where I can visit several areas all over the marshland, we can see that this is not an isolated problem but happening all over the marshland and even worst in some areas," she said.

A fisherman also lamented that the price on fish stayed the same despite rising costs.

The main product for most communities in Agusan Marsh is dried fish from mudfish, carp, and tilapia.

Agusan Marsh is one of the most ecologically significant wetlands in the Philippines that covers an area roughly the size of Metro Manila, according to Dr. Jurgenne H. Primavera.

Primavera is a chief mangrove scientific advisor for Zoological Society of London and a Scientist Emerita of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.

She said it contains nearly 15 percent of the nation's freshwater resources in the form of swamp forests. - report from Erwin M. Mascariñas, ABS-CBN News