MANILA — The local government of Pola town in Oriental Mindoro said on Wednesday it was still looking for possible alternative sources of livelihood for its fishermen who were hit by an oil spill.
Hundreds of fishermen have been ordered to stay on shore until they can fish safely, while authorities struggled to contain and clean up spillage from a tanker that went down in rough seas on February 28.
The oil spill has affected 11 coastal barangays in Pola, which has declared a state of calamity, said its Mayor Jennifer “Ina Alegre” Cruz.
“Hindi na nga makapangisda iyong ating mangingisda. Wala na rin puwedeng manisid kasi namatay na rin iyong…mga pusit, iyong ibang isda namamatay na rin, even iyong turtles umaalis na doon na sobrang mahal natin yung mga kalikasan natin,” she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(Our fishermen can no longer fish. No one can dive anymore because the squid have died, some fish have died, even the turtles have left our beloved waters.)
Cruz said 533 hectares of mangrove areas were damaged by the oil spill.
Out of 4,800 families affected by the oil spill, about half rely on fishing for their livelihood, Cruz said.
The national government is helping some fishermen through its cash-for-work program that taps them to help clean up the spillage, said the mayor.
“Pero hanggang kailan? Hindi puwedeng palagi kaming aasa sa gobyerno…maghahanap talaga kami ng alternative programa para sa kanila,” she said.
(But until when? We can't always rely on the national government... We really need to find alternatives for them.)
“Kami naman as local government, aalalayan natin hanggat kaya natin pero hindi kakayanin ng budget. Napakaliit ng budget ng local government. We only have P600,000 doon sa QRF (quick response fund) natin. Paano namin masustehan sila?”
(As a local government unit, we can help them but our budget has limitations. We only have a small budget. We only have P600,000 in our quick response fund. How can we sustain them?)
Cruz said fishermen are tearful whenever they speak with her.
“Habang kausap ko sila, umiiyak sila kasi papaano nga naman iyong nag-aaral nila ng kolehiyo, paano mo masu-sustain yung pambayad sa school, papaano yung buhay nila? Papaano yong pamasahe ng estudyante papunta sa school?”
“Hindi naman puwedeng utangin iyong pamasahe sa tricycle kasi siyempre nagbabayad din yon. Hindi mako-cover kasi yun. Siyempre, hanggang kailan yung programa ng national government?”
(When I talk to them, they cry. How about their kids in college? How will you pay for their schooling? How about their lives? How about their fare? You can't take a loan from a tricycle driver. How will you cover that expense? Until when is the national government going to run its program for us?)
On top of the cash-for-work program, the social welfare department is providing food to oil spill-affected families, noted Sen. Cynthia Villar.
The national government will also help fishermen look for alternative sources of income, said Villar, chairperson of the Senate environment committee, which is looking into the oil spill.