Princess Bong-ao is sending her sister to school, while renting a modest boarding house in Barangay Talisayan, Zamboanga City.
She decided to live there because it’s near the canning factory where she worked as a production worker.
But her younger sister may have to stop going to school soon, since the factory where she works stopped operations December 1.
“Siguro sa ngayon, habang wala pa, hanap muna paraan, extra-extra pero wala talaga ngayon meron man pero bihira lang talaga,” Bang-ao said.
Canning factories and fishing vessels catching tamban in Zamboanga City have been implementing the closed season for 12 years now.
This is in compliance with BFAR Administrative Circular 255 that bans fishing, catching and processing of Sardinella, or locally called as tamban beginning December 1 up to March 1.
Tony Balungkas’ work as an operator in a fishing vessel has also been affected.
He doubts he can still find work at his age while waiting for the fishing season to resume in March.
“Ewan ko lang kung papaano pamilya ko bubuhayin,” he said.
Both of them are just among hundreds of workers who will have to stop working for a while.
But the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Zamboanga City assured that they have prepared livelihood programs for the affected workers.
Roughly more than 20,000 employees are affected by the closed fishing season, according to DOLE Zamboanga City officer Wesley Tan.
This includes those working in allied services. Allied services are partner industries of the canning and fishing sector whose businesses are providing cold storage facilities, tin can factory workers and packaging companies.
However, Tan said that in the past, barely half of the 20,000 workers avail of government programs since some private companies also conduct different interventions for their workers.
Project HOPE (Helping Others Prosper Economically) and DOLE TUPAD (Tulong Panghanap buhay para sa ating Displaced, Disadvantaged Workers Program) are some of the government initiated emergency programs to accommodate the employment needs of the affected workers.
Other programs also include TESDA tailored-fit courses to help affected workers conduct livelihood especially during the holidays when they don’t have work.
Zamboanga City has 11 canning companies, and 20 fishing companies, and has a 24-percent share in the entirety of sardines production in the county. -Report from Jewel Reyes