Here's how the emergency banca repairs will be made

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Fish are still there for the catch. With bancas fixed, fishers can set out to sea anew to feed their families and communities. That exigency confronts Pacific coastal Bicol. Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses wrecked tens of thousands of artisanal fishing boats. Environmentalists Asis Perez and Norbert Chingcuanco are stockpiling repair materials. As soon as dirt roads are passable, marine plywood, epoxy and rust-resistant copper nails will be distributed to isolated villages.

Fishers' homes will be visited to assess boat damage on the spot. The broken segments will be measured, and the exact plywood replacements sawed and handed over. Neighbors will help sand, glue and nail up the boat. No time lost, no overhead cost, repair kits are conserved. Then onto the next fisher's hut. From restored earnings, beneficiaries can later pitch in for marine paint to top off the repairs.

Asis and Norbert will do away with the slow conventional way. That entails first tedious list-up of fishers, then written damage reports. Only then will repair kits be doled. By then fishing villages will be starving.

The aim is to get them back on their feet in no time, Asis says. Unlike farmers who lost their crops, the fishers simply need to refit to sail and fend for themselves. Food relief is coming in trickles.

From experience, Asis estimates each repair to cost P2,000-P3,000. He was Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources head when Super Typhoon Yolanda battered the Visayas in 2013. At once 25,000 bancas were fixed. Another 8,000 new ones were molded from fiberglass on-site in worst hit but reachable barrios. "Project Ahon (Arise)" somehow staved off hunger.

No longer in command of government resources, Asis cannot replicate those numbers today. With donations, he and fish-entrepreneur Norbert target to help at least a thousand fishers. Materials suppliers are giving substantial discounts as contribution. The fund drive is called "Mini Ahon, Part-2".

Officials have yet to detail the number of displaced fishers. In Kalabangga district alone in San Miguel Bay, at least 5,000 bancas were damaged, Asis quotes the fisherfolk cooperative. The bay encompasses Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur provinces. Initial news from Catanduanes Island reported about 10,000 ruined boats. Fishers groups in Lagonoy Gulf, Bicol Peninsula; Polillo Island, Quezon; and Dinggalan, Aurora have also sent distress calls.

"What Typhoon Rolly partially damaged, Typhoon Ulysses finished off," shudders Lorrybel Nachor, Executive Director of Coalition for Bicol Development. The two howlers struck on Nov. 1 and 11. First roofs were torn off homes and shops. Then floods engulfed communities. Farm crops were ruined, fishing bancas smashed. Nearly 200,000 families evacuated to schoolhouses.

Launched last Monday, "Mini Ahon, Part-2" can so far cover 500 repairs. Donations have poured in from as far as California and New Jersey. "There's joy in giving," Norbert says. "Even tilapia raisers in Taal Lake, Batangas, on the other side of Luzon, though hard-hit by Typhoon Quinta, readily gave P150,000." The NGO Tanggol Kalikasan will render a full accounting on its Facebook wall. It is registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue for tax-credit donations.

After the rush repairs, Asis and Norbert intend to raise new funds for fiberglass boats. "No more cutting of trees," says Asis, a longtime forest conservationist. Wooden boats last only five years; fiberglass at least 25. "With nearly 300,000 registered bancas nationwide, 6,000 need to be replaced every five years," Asis says. With built-in floaters, fiberglass versions are unsinkable. Very usable in the West Philippine Sea against trespassing Chinese coastguards that water-cannon Filipino fishers. There are makers in Navotas, Metro Manila.

Donations welcome to "Mini Ahon, Part-2": Tanggol Kalikasan Inc., Banco de Oro, 004210079580. Please Private Message Norbert Chingcuanco's Facebook wall for proper accounting.

* * *

There's hope yet for the Bureau of Customs. It won gold for compliance in the Performance Governance System. That's a leap from where it came -- the pile of crookedest agencies around.

The BoC stinks inside and out. Various administrations attempted cleanups top-down. A few changes here and firings there. But BoC kept sliding back.

This time reforms are coming from middle managers, supervisors and staff. Goals are set and scorecards kept on section and individual output. The aim is to professionalize the politicized, factionalized organization. In four years it should be modern and credible.

How? Full automation, including no-contact transacting and customer care. Universal risk consciousness. Strong internal controls. BoC chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero proposed those strategies. Deputy Collector Lourdes V. Mangaoang heads the 11-member transformation core team. The Office for Strategic Management heads the strategy execution. PGS guidance and grading is by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

In passing PGS' Stage-1 Initiation this time last year, BoC also got highest rank. The revalida panel for Stage-2 Compliance commended BoC's top performance. Panelists were ISA trustee Alex Lacson, Usec. Emmanuel Bautista, Asec. Mary Jean Pacheco, Asec. Dakila Napao, Ryan Evangelista, and Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua.

Next hurdles: Stage-3 Proficiency, and Stage-4 Institutionalization. If rank and file stand steadfast, BoC's stink can become luster.

* * *

Watch out for the launch of "Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government". The book compiles my columns on corruption in recent years. As well, the illegalities and obsequiousness that encouraged China sea aggression.

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: https://tinyurl.com/Gotcha-Archives

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