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The typhoon Haiyan wrecked 30,000 fishing boats at the Philippines in 2013. Grieg Foundation has donated to help local fishermen build new fiberglass boats.

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Grieg Foundation’s support for Bancas for the Philippines will help create 70 fibreglass boats. (Toni Munar / WWF-Philippines)

Text: Sophia Dedace, WWF-Philippines. Photos: Toni Munar and Jannicke Steen

More than a year and a half has passed since typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm in recorded history, barrelled through the Philippines. On November 8, 2013, the tropical cyclone cut vast swaths of destruction in the central part of the country, claiming more than 7,000 lives and causing an estimated PHP 500 Billion in economic damage.

One of the sectors that suffered the brunt of Haiyan’s wrath was local fisherfolk. These are small-scale fishermen who rely on wooden outrigger boats to put food on the table, send their children to school, sustain their families, and save up for the future.

Haiyan destroyed about 30,000 fishing boats and deprived some 146,700 fishers of their primary source of food and livelihood. As we prepare for a future defined by climate change, we know that more storms will come – and more fishing boats will be damaged.

Philippine government data shows that 4 out of 10 fishermen live below the poverty line. It is thus important to prepare local fisherfolk for rougher waters that lie ahead.

Grieg Foundation, fuelled by its commitment to help build a climate-resilient Philippines, has donated to Bancas for the Philippines. The project, created by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines), teaches fishermen how to build their own fibreglass boats, which are faster to make and are more durable than wooden bancas if cared for properly.

The project also provides materials plus training modules so that trained fibreglass boatbuilders can replicate boat moulds and sustain the technology transfer for the long term.

Most of the relief and reconstruction efforts that were placed under the spotlight were those conducted in Leyte, the typhoon’s Ground Zero. But little has been heard of what is being done in the province of Aklan, which was also heavily damaged by Haiyan.

BFP Aklan_Sea Trial 003 (Toni Munar  WWF)Aware of the need to reach out to areas that still need attention, Grieg Foundation and WWF-Philippines agreed to implement the project in the municipalities of Kalibo, New Washington, Numancia, and Tangalan in Aklan, with the Aklan People’s Tabang Center as the local NGO partner.

“Our primary motivation is to give back to the Philippines. Our vessels are manned with Filipino officers and crew, and we want to try to give back to Filipinos who may struggle to make ends meet,” says Jannicke Steen, Grieg Star’s Business Development Manager.

“We felt drawn to help those who have not received much help after Haiyan. Furthermore, the beneficiaries are benefitting from the project in terms of new knowledge, which they can utilize and share with others. All in all, it’s about contributing to sustainable development,” she adds.

Since its launch in February 2014, the Bancas for the Philippines has trained 43 fibreglass boatbuilders in Palawan, Leyte, Iloilo, and Cebu – who have in turn produced over 800 bancas for selected beneficiaries. Grieg Foundation’s donation would provide additional fibreglass boats for 71 fisherfolk while supporting technology transfer and capacity building of five local volunteers.

Under the Train-the-Trainers Initiative developed with WWF-Philippines’ Environmental Life Skills unit, boatbuilders that the project trained in Iloilo were among those who shared their skills and knowledge to their Aklanon brothers.

“Though Haiyan no longer makes the headlines, much remains to be done. We remain committed to helping fishermen prepare for climate change, and we thank Grieg Foundation for sharing this commitment. Thank you for helping us keep hope afloat!” says Joel Palma, President and CEO of WWF-Philippines.

BFP Aklan_Beneficiaries (Toni Munar  WWF)