THE waves that once roared and ripped into the coastal community of New Washington, Aklan are calm today. Before daybreak, small-scale fishers boldly cast their nets into the very waters they used to fear.
New Washington is among the localities that suffered the brunt of typhoon Yolanda, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded. Haiyan claimed 7,200 lives, displaced millions of families, and left economic damage worth P500 billion. The storm also destroyed the wooden bancas of about 146,700 small-scale fishers.
Erma Repedro and her family survived the Category-5 storm but her husband continued heading out to sea using his damaged boat—braving unpredictable and sometimes turbulent waters.
“My husband had to make do with his old banca so that he can continue feeding our family. There were days when I feared he will no longer come back. We have very little money to repair our boat’s holes, so I always worried that his boat would sink,” she said.
Unlike the Repedros, the family of 63-year-old Bibot Advincula of Tolosa, Leyte lost everything they had, including all their boats.
“On the day the typhoon arrived in Leyte, a deep bellow from the winds rang through the evacuation center where my family and I sought refuge. The winds shattered the glass windows and we could hear the sea swallowing and flattening our homes. Out of fear, I raised my hands in surrender. I was honestly prepared to die.”
Thankfully, Bibot and his family survived one of the worst disasters to ever hit the Philippines.
Today—two years after Yolanda—Erma’s husband and Bibot are back in the water with their own fibreglass boats. Fishers from their villages also rely on these humble yet powerful 15-foot bancas they themselves built.
These communities are among the recipients of 1,000 fibreglass boats produced to date through Bancas for the Philippines, a program of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) to help local fishers rebuild their lives and get back on their feet.
Reaching out to fishing communities
A future defined by climate change means that more extreme weather events will come and that more fishing boats will be damaged. Considering that 40 percent of Philippine fishers live below the poverty line, it is important to prepare local fishers for rougher seas ahead.
Bancas for the Philippines offers a platform that improves fishers’ resilience to climate change impacts. Veering away from dole-outs and band-aid solutions, it taught fishers how to build their own fiberglass bancas and replicate boat moulds for future use and succeeding generations.
Since its launch in February 2014, the project has reached out to 18 communities across Yolanda’s trail of destruction. These include fishing villages that received little public attention namely: Tacloban City and the municipalities of Tanauan, Palo, Tolosa, Mayorga, and Abuyog in Leyte; Calamianes Group of Islands (Municipalities of Coron, Culion, Busuanga and Linapacan) in Palawan; Municipalities of Estan¬cia and Carles in Iloilo; Municipality of Daan¬ban¬tayan and Bantayan Island in Cebu; Municipalities of Kalibo, New Washington, Tangalan, and Numancia in Aklan.
“Through the generous support of partners and donors, was able to exceed its target of 600 boats. By August 2015, the fishers and boatmakers we have trained under Bancas for the Philippines have been were able to build exactly 1000 fibreglass bancas,” said Patrick Co, head of WWF-Philippines’ Adaptive Technologies Unittions of the technology.” When we did our Monitoring and Evaluation, it was fulfilling to hear some of the banca recipients report that they were now able to regularly secure enough food to feed their families, which had not been the case in the aftermath of the typhoon,” added Co.
Keeping hope afloat
Two years after Haiyan, much remains to be done. Sustainable recovery will be a long process but Bancas for the Philippines is a pioneering initiative that empowers local fishers to chart a climate-resilient future for their families and communities.
Indeed, when you give a man some fish, you feed him for a day. But teaching him how to build his own fibreglass boat will help him secure a better future for his family.